Three Poems (#2) – Greg Brisendine

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Art AIDS America

An artist reacts to artists reacting to AIDS in America.

Thank God the AIDS crisis is over, thank God it’s a problem of the 80s, 
like parachute pants, spiked hair and cocaine addiction. 
I am at a museum, I am at an exhibit about AIDS, 
I am surrounded by art about dead people, 
art by dead people. 
This is not my story. I am not affected by AIDS.

Affected. 
As if AIDS was a storm over some other part of the city, 
a hungry lion burst from the forest into an unsuspecting African village, 
a sinkhole that swallowed an entire family when everyone else was at the county fair. 
As if AIDS was a speed bump that America encountered on the best road trip ever.

As if AIDS was not a metaphor at all but a virus. 
A virus that eviscerates immunity, 
a virus that oozes and bleeds and drips inelegantly from orifices and sores, 
as if it was a virus that strikes at the core of our squeamish fear of sex, 
a virus that punishes men for sex with other men, 
punishes men for fucking. 

Thank God the AIDS crisis is over.

A patriarchy fears nothing as much as emasculation. 
Fears nothing as much as a man submitting to be penetrated like a woman.
Faced with this aberration in nature, President Reagan, and our leaders, and our people 
were struck mute. 

As if thousands of disease riddled corpses were speed bumps 
for which America did not slow down. 
And instead of lifting up the sick, the righteous 
called fire down onto the abomination of homosexuality, 
proclaiming AIDS as just punishment from the God 
who had already stated his sexual preferences 
when he brought us an immaculate conception.

Art about AIDS is not immaculate, it is ugly and uncomfortable. 
There are fluids in frames, 
a leather shroud of sweat, 
paintings like open sores, 
and the stained underwear of a man 
who wasted to his death decades ago.

Thank God the AIDS crisis is over. This is not my story. I am not affected by AIDS.

I take a blue pill every morning as a gauzy shield against HIV infection. 
I take a blue pill every morning because the secret I’m not supposed to tell is that 
sometimes I choose hot, risky, MESSY sex over the immaculate interaction. 

I take a blue pill every morning and most days when I do I don’t think about AIDS. 
But sometimes, when I walk through a graveyard gallery of men who looked like me, 
I remember how at 24 I learned that being true to myself meant I might die for it.

I take a blue pill every morning because drug companies and politicians are on board now 
and want you to know that sex should be safe because, 
if you can imagine, 
you’re at risk, even 
if you aren’t gay.




We Are Queer

They want us so badly. 

The politicians and their pundits, 
the preachers and their flocks, 
the suburbanites and their yoga classes, 
the senior citizens and their golf carts, 
They want us so badly to be a community.

Stooping and peering 
tapping the aquarium glass
they see us
they know
	what we should do
about sex and love and marriage and children,
about art and music and fashion and food and
our lives.

They vote for our lives
against our lives.

We are not a community, we are not the same, 
we are not check boxes on ballots,
we are more than the front page on gay pride weekend.

We are gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender 
and questioning and intersex and gender queer
and all of those things and none of those things. 

We are Black and Hispanic and Asian and Ukrainian and Muslim and Christian 
and Atheist.

We like Coke AND Pepsi, 
we like the mountains AND the beach.
We read US Weekly AND War and Peace AND the Bible.

We are vegetarian and pescetarian and omnivorian.
We are morbidly obese and we have eating disorders.
We smoke cigars and we smoke pot and we smoke the rear tires on muscle cars

We are funny.  And not at all funny.

We wear suits and dresses and jeans and Culottes. 
Ok, we don’t really wear Culottes because no one wears Culottes.
Which is exactly my point.

We are not a community. 
We do not hear you tapping on the glass. 
We are not in the aquarium.

We are legion, we are in your offices and at your dinner table and in the DNA you pass 
on to your children. 

We are you. I am you. And you are me. 
We are only ever the community we make, 
the community we decide to love.




Inscribe In Sand

In sand, inscribe 
the name of your fear.
Feel finger tips tingle in each of the letters
dig hands deeply into the grains
up to your elbows in your own fear.

These are your hands, your elbows, 
this is your fear.

Raise clenched fists of sand to your mouth
choke on the dry futility of your fear.

Open your hands and seek your heaven.
Feel fear sift away and rain
over the landscape.

In sand, inscribe
the name of your strength.



These poems were written in response to an exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum 
called Art AIDS America.
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About Greg Brisendine

I'm a poet, playwright, actor, animator, motorcyclist, and corporate sell-out who lives in Seattle with my cat. View all posts by Greg Brisendine

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