Poem 36 ± July 10, 2015

Nina Bennett
CJ 4321

The third time CJ
came in for an HIV test
it was positive. I paced
my office like a caged animal,
prepared to deliver his results.
He gasped when I said CJ, your
test is positive. Silent tears traversed
his downy cheeks as he shook his head.
How am I going to tell he whispered,
the next words nearly inaudible,
my mother?

He left, phone numbers for the HIV clinic,
support group, counseling hotline
stuffed in his jean jacket.
I filled out the standardized report.
Gender: male. Age: 22.
Mode of transmission: I searched
for a place to write luck ran out
but health department forms, unlike
election ballots, don’t permit
write-in votes.

That night I eat dinner with my sons;
while they talk about school,
math tests, band practice,
I picture another son
who sits with his mother, stares out
the dining room window at purple finches
and cardinals in a bird feeder,
struggles to begin an impossible conversation.

Nina BennettDelaware native Nina Bennett is the author of Sound Effects (Broadkill Press Key Poetry Series, 2013). Nina has worked in the HIV/AIDS field since the beginning of the epidemic. She was among the first in her state to be certified to perform anonymous HIV counseling and testing. She also served as a buddy, facilitated a support group, and worked as an HIV/AIDS case manager. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Napalm and Novocain, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Houseboat, Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine, Philadelphia Stories, and The Broadkill Review. Awards include 2014 Northern Liberties Review Poetry Prize, second-place in poetry book category from the Delaware Press Association (2014), and a 2012 Best of the Net nomination.

This poem originally appeared in Spaces Between Us: Poetry, Prose and Art on HIV/AIDS (Third World Press, 2010).