for JW, Austin, TX
When the newspaper ran a retrospective
on AIDS, a photo spread of those who’d passed,
early activists, others simply public
about their status, I was surprised to see
you there. You never told me, though we didn’t
talk a lot. We met in Pease Park
about the time my girlfriend dumped me, and
before I found a boy I could be open
with, or about, and out. Maybe
I should’ve guessed, given the care you took,
despite my adolescent and urgent haste.
I remember your parrot watching us,
rocking as I took you, the few times
I went to your place (mostly you came
to mine), and once your husband interrupted
us, a whispered chat behind the door,
then left us to it, the parrot still watching
from across the bed. You’d bound up
the stairs at my apartment whenever I called,
and we’d be at it, hungry, saying nothing.
I don’t remember when we stopped, or why.
I had forgotten you, just another
nameless man from back then, my furtive
grapplings before I’d finally named myself.
When I opened the paper that day, saw you,
read the last name I never knew,
I remembered that it felt like friendship,
when I was new to it, and I was grateful.
Ed Madden is the author of Prodigal: Variations (Lethe Press, 2011), Nest (Salmon Poetry, 2014), and My Father’s House (Seven Kitchens Press, 2013). His collection Ark is forthcoming in 2016. His poems have appeared in Assaracus, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, James Joyce Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and other journals, as well as in the anthologies Collective Brightness: LBGTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion, and Spirituality (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2011), Best Gay Poetry 2008 (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2009), and Texas Poetry Calendar 2010 (Dos Gatos Press, 2009), among others. Ed is an associate professor of English and director of Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of South Carolina.
This poem is not previously published.