Poem 178 ± November 29, 2015

Barbara Peabody
Las Madres

Every Wednesday we cross the border
To meet above Emilio’s bar in Tijuana
With five, six, seven madres
Mothers or wives of people with AIDS
El SIDA, they call it here

Cross the border into a world
Where treatment is non-existent
Where patients are untouchables
Where the barbed wire fences of
Disgust and scorn divide them
From prying neighbors
Where families abandon children
On hospital steps in unworded hope
Someone can soften their deaths.

These are brave women
These would not abandon their children
They fear infection by their children
(Information has not reached the barrio)
They fear neighbors’ discovery
Of the secret disease inside their homes
They fear hate, they fear fear itself
They fear the child’s sure death
They’ve always been able to laugh at life
Now despair crowds their homes
Its rank odor in every corner
Now there’s no time to laugh

Yet they come every Wednesday
By foot or even taxi
Not to talk of death and disease
Nor prying eyes over the wall
Nor fingers pointed at sons—maricόn!
But to make chistes and chismes
Jokes and gossip, small talk
The price of mangos and manteca
Derision of husbands who fled in shame
Maybe Papá is a maricόn, too, people might say
Ha! But ni modo, he was no good anyway
Laughter explodes in crystals
Mejor sola que mal acompañada
Sί, better alone than in bad company
The women laugh, first time in a week

Relax for a moment, cross arms in agreement
Nod heads, smile and sip their coffee.

Barbara Peabody1Barbara Peabody is the author of the poetry collection Cries and Whispers (CreateSpace, 2009) and the memoir The Screaming Room: A Mother’s Journal of Her Son’s Struggle With AIDS, a True Story of Love, Dedication And Courage (Oak Tree Publications, April 1986). Her son, Peter Vom Lehn, died of AIDS in 1984. Barbara started the AIDS Art Project in San Diego in 1984, using her experience as an artist and training in art therapy to support people with AIDS in San Diego. About the same time, Barbara and two other mothers co-founded MAP, Mothers of AIDS Patients, to give support to mothers and families who were caregivers of their loved ones. Later, under a Ryan White CARE Act grant to the Visiting Nurse Association, she started a Spanish-speaking group of mothers and wives of people with AIDS in Tijuana, Mexico. Today Barbara continue her AIDS advocacy and activism in Tucson, where she lives and works as an artist and writer.

This poem is not previously published.