AIDS Witness

Standard

I don’t know how
I survived.
Present at the onset,
Before it even had a name;
I walked through minefields
and watched them fall;
boyfriends, friends, and foes:
Hogie, Steve, Chris, Chepé, Scott,
and the guy in room 312 in 1984, hidden behind a wall of isolation gowns and masks.

I don’t know why
I lived
When they all died.
Was I more deserving?
Or, like Job, did God let me survive to test my faith?
We lost.

I lost my faith,
And I ran,

Fled the scene, the death, the destruction.
A refugee, hiding,
Waiting for the plague to end.
It didn’t.

I don’t know how
I survived the hiding,
Dead to the world around me.

I don’t know how
I returned
To live—to life—in the land of the dying.

I don’t know how
I searched a quilt for his name:
Hogie
Hogie Gaskins

I don’t know how
I held the hand of the man in room 508
While life seeped out of him.
I didn’t know that he—that all of them—gave me my own life back.

I didn’t know that
God was right.
We won.
I lived—I live—to
bear witness.

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