Twenty years of dead
— J (1956-1993)
There’s not a lot of love that isn’t brutal, but we
had our East Village dives that didn’t open for Sunday
liquid-brunch until 1 pm and Monday nights at the G&L
community center where all the boys were cruising and
you hung out with me anyway, and
your pâté, your miraculous leg of lamb, your
hundred layers of filo, and
your ten plagues, the infusions that didn’t kill
the germ that killed you, and how
after I met your parents, and
after I found the shoebox of postcards of martyred Saints
and slush pile of short stories you wrote in college,
I read your journals.
I should never have read your journals. Your love
was hilarious and full of grand gestures and
caution tossed, and
Christ how we could talk smart and fast like 2 Jews do,
I could meet up with you after an AA meeting, count
on you to say good god girl, you need a drink, because
you knew you were going to die and you could say
things so brainsick as after I die, I want you to burn
my body in the street and eat my flesh.
Risa Denenberg is the author of Whirlwind @ Lesbos (Headmistress Press, 2016), In My Exam Room (The Lives You Touch Publications, 2014) and blinded by clouds (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2014) She is a nurse practitioner working in HIV/AIDS care and end-of-life care. Risa is a moderator at The Gazebo, an online poetry board; reviews poetry for the American Journal of Nursing; and is an editor at Headmistress Press, a publisher of lesbian poetry. She lives on the Olympic peninsula in Washington State.
This poem originally appeared in Spry Literary Journal.