Poem 222 ± January 12, 2016

Christoper Soto

A few weeks ago I walked into the doctor’s office to get a routine physical & blood work. Nothing to be ashamed about. The nurse, when reading off my papers started to whisper the tests I was getting. “HIV” she said as if it were a secret something to be embarrassed about, as if my faggotry had pre-diagnosed me, and I began thinking of Susan Sontag’s Illness As Metaphor in which she writes, “In Stendhal’s Armance (1827), the hero’s mother refuses to say ‘tuberculosis’ for fear that pronouncing the word will hasten the course of her son’s malady.” And Karl Menninger has observed (in The Vital Balance), “The very word ‘cancer’ is said to kill some patients who would not have succumbed (so quickly) to the malignancy from which they suffer.” Here HIV becomes an association of everything “bad.” Here HIV becomes a metaphor for whatever the imagination will allow. Here HIV is not allowed to be MERELY a disease or part of a person’s health. Here health is criminalized. Lately I have been thinking about shame as another form of disease. I have been thinking about that nurse in the office and my test results. And I don’t want to be ashamed of my health or yours.

Christopher SotoChristopher Soto (aka Loma) is a queer latinx punk poet & prison abolitionist. They were named one of “Ten Up and Coming Latinx Poets You Need to Know” by Remezcla. They were named one of “Seven Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Artists Doing the Work” by The Offing. Poets & Writers will be honoring Christopher Soto with the “Barnes & Nobles Writer for Writers Award” in 2016. They founded Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color with the Lambda Literary Foundation. They cofounded The Undocupoets Campaign in 2015. Their poetry has been called political surrealist and focuses on domestic violence, queer youth homelessness, and mass incarceration. They received an MFA in poetry from NYU, where they studied with Eileen Myles, Yusef Komunyakaa, Marie Howe, Brenda Shaughnessy, and Major Jackson. Originally from the Los Angeles area; they now live in Brooklyn.

This poem is not previously published.