My mother (dying of cancer, smoking
until her last breath), angry
about research dollars: those people
don’t deserve it. They brought
this on themselves. She never saw
the irony. Meanwhile, we watched
as faces disappeared from our town
Days as long as the funeral processions:
two a week, three a week, friends, brothers,
dancers, writers, actors, artists—
Men coming here to die. The love that
dared not speak its name killed by a plague
that didn’t even yet have one. They
brought us laundry to do in the night
so no one would know who was sick.
The tourists called the whale watch boats:
Are there gay people there? Are we safe?
They kept calling while we buried our
dead: Victor, Tom, Brendan. The guy
who served me my cocktails, my coffees,
who walked his dog past my apartment
every morning: gone. So many of them.
So many in such pain, losing their will,
losing their looks, losing their minds
Lesions, dementia, breath gone forever:
And a Portuguese grandmother walked into
the support group, announcing she didn’t
understand these people, but she made quilts:
and she would keep making them as long as
there was a man left who needed their comfort
as he died.