Poem 24 ± World AIDS Day 2017

Iris Lee
At the PWA Writers Workshop

We were sitting around the highly polished table,
the chairs a bit too low for writing in comfort.
The workshop should have ended but
no one wanted to leave. World AIDS Day
had come and gone and people were pensive.
Someone read his essay
about a woman he’d seen on the subway,
how he imagined her life of scratched records
played in a chilly room, snowy streets below,
which reminded someone else
of an old librarian he’d known,
cultured, well-traveled, alone but not lonely:
what he’d want for himself down the road.

Someone read his essay on art, money,
and how to save the planet
and we considered the concept of legacy:
In your last ten minutes on earth,
the proverbial summing-up moment,
what would you like to have left or done
for your lover, a rainforest, the kids on the block?
The essay writer had to leave to cook a pork roast
but we continued to talk, at the expense of writing.
That was o.k. This group’s already dealt with death.

A legacy, someone said, might be found
in the life of that old librarian, reemerging
through the writer’s words.
Another said he didn’t need to leave
a “big-L” legacy, just a few folks smiling.
One man’s legacy is another’s…. was the consensus.
We left it at that. The holiday party’s tonight;
we’ll meet again in January.


logoIris Lee is the author of Urban Bird Life (NYQ Books in 2010). She leads a writers workshop at The Actors Fund. Say Lee, “This poem was begun several years ago as a prompt in the workshop, which at the time was devoted those in the HIV/AIDS community. Things have changed, but not enough.” Lee lives and writes in Brooklyn.

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