Poem 176 ± November 27, 2015

Judy Bankman
Silent Plague

for Randy Shilts
after “Change” by Langston Kerman

In 1980 it surfaced
a deflated balloon
a quiet water
& Harvey Milk was already dead
& the Castro was a piney purple valhalla
& disco beats pounded into the night like
mini earthquakes
& the Orange County Connection played his blond Canadian charm
at all the bathhouses
& the sassy queens and beautiful boys started dying
from ‘gay cancer,’ its black magic the length
of a pregnancy term
& the newspapers didn’t care because it was a
Homosexual Disease
& the NIH had better projects to fund
& the CDC freaked but couldn’t do much
& the gay politicos were all split between
stop fucking so we can survive
don’t tell us not to fuck, we have come too far
& the lesions showed up like cat scratches
on necks and calves and backs
& vacations to the Yucatan were cancelled
& it was hard to walk up the stairs
& lovers worried like Jewish mothers
about their darling boys
& sometimes fucking brought relief
& sometimes exhaustion’s gaunt face refused
& muscles began to shrink
& pneumonia hit like a sack of lead
& the San Francisco Bay was a shiny plate of glass
& death was like a leap year
& the calendar was all blank pages
& sunken eyes gazed terror-stricken from hospital beds
& the scarlet letters were four
& thrush bloomed white volcanoes

Judy Bankman is a Brooklyn-based poet and plant-nurturer. She is awed by the co-existing vulnerability and resiliency of human bodies on planet earth. Judy’s poetry has appeared in Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Souvenir, Axolotl, Wilde Magazine, and Windfall: A Journal of Poetry of Place.

This poem previously appeared in Linden Avenue Literary Journal.