To a Lover Who Is HIV-Positive
You ask what I feel.
Grief; and a hope
that springs from your intention
to forward projects as assertive
or lasting as flesh ever upholds.
Love; and a fear
that the so far implacable
cunning of a virus will smuggle away
substantial warmth, the face, the response
telling us who we are and might be.
Guilt; and bewilderment
that, through no special virtue of mine
or fault of yours, a shadowed affliction
overlooked me and settled on you. As if
all, always, got what was theirs.
Anger; and knowledge
that our venture won’t be joined
in perfect safety. Still, it’s better odds
than the risk of not feeling much at all.
Until you see yourself well in them,
love, keep looking in my eyes.
Alfred Corn is the author of numerous poetry collections including Stake: Selected Poems, 1972-1992 (Counterpoint, 1999) and, most recently, Unions (Barrow Street, 2014). He is also the author of two novels, Miranda’s Book (Eyewear Publishing, 2014) and Part of His Story (Mid List Press, 1997). He has written a study of prosody, The Poem’s Heartbeat (Copper Canyon, 2008), and two collections of critical essays, The Metamorphoses of Metaphor (Viking Adult, 1987) and Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989-2007 (University of Michigan Press (October 24, 2008). Corn lives in Rhode Island and spends part of the year in the UK.
This poem appeared in Contradictions (Copper Canyon, 2002) and is posted by permission of the author.