Poem 20 ± World AIDS Day 2017

Norman Belanger

Are you clean? My Grndr date asks me.

I pretend not to know what he means.
Are you disease free? He asks.

(It says on my profile “POZ”
My status is no secret
But who reads anymore?)

He’s cute, too young, his name is Kenny

When I tell him

His pretty eyes look everywhere but at me

When I tell him

He looks for an escape

He forgets we’d planned to walk along the river
To look at the newly turned leaves.
He forgets we had plans

He thanks me for the latte, leaves his raisin scone untouched

“I gotta go” he says—
And he’s gone.

He doesn’t even look back as he walks away.

It’s been too long, to feel like this

To feel what?


It’s been too long a road.

These young kids of now were not there then

Those early days, those terrible days

When I was his age
younger even
cuter even

When people died of the plague
When we were fags
When we Acted Up

They were not there

When Robert died, he was the first
When Joe lingered in hospice
When Everett hung on like a ghost, a shadow

They were not there

When so many died, died young,
died angry,
died scared

And we who were left behind were young,
and angry,
and scared

Back then I would have said, if I could have said:

Take care of me
Hold me
Love me…

(Can it be a generation has no idea what we went through?
Can it be that we forgot ourselves?
Can it be that we may need to act up again, be angry again?)

For now, I’m not angry

Not even sad.

Just tired.

It’s been too long a road.
to feel so alone as I go
out in the air that is cold

out into the air that is clean.


logoNorman Belanger is a nurse in the field of HIV care and also POZ since 1999. His work has appeared in A&U, Red Fez, Sick Lit, and Penmen Review, among other publications.

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