Inherit their voice

2012610_1809dSat facing away from the sun

an old man wipes years from his eyes

drawn over with cataract like milky bath water

he strains to see the outline of motion

 

where are all the old men? He thinks

once so barrel chested and neatly trimmed

with mustaches and shiny hair like Cover Girl teens

where are all the eighties queers who painted beaches

with tight abs and tiny shorts in tropical shades?

 

now half empty, the beach longs for color

only rotund women with bristly chins

unkempt hair chopped without thought

some with children or children’s children

placing sensible shades and thick UV factor 50

on slow-moving parts of themselves

 

in previous years you could

reach out and paint a rainbow

in their courage of being twenty

though lesbians and gay men do not

always a palate make

such contrasts in their expression

these women without restraint

mopping the brows of dying beautiful boys

unwilling nurses drawn to duty

by suffering ignored

 

some judged, as is human’s wont

even those judged themselves

learning in pious pews the curses afflicted upon

the sinner

their ingrained prejudices wondered;

Why so many striken did not stop frequenting steam rooms

smelling of bleach and pleasure and illness

looking for strangers with no way to tell

if death stood beside them?

 

perhaps; time old division of the sexes

rather than, one bad, one good

men will find a hole, stick it in without regard

this is not a homosexual thing but

the nature of a penis

gay men acted upon that unrestrained impulse

all men share, save those who learn greater depth

than the hand, the orifice, the gag reflex

then disease clasped them in a death grip

chewing away at fragile worn tendencies

soon no beautiful boys remained

hot in steam rooms to blink their doe eyes

fringed with fear

 

some divisions are economic

lesbians with babies, lesbians without brawn

unable to act upon their natural instinct

remained married, starched at home, dying in place

whilst young men, fed on corn and barley, took good

California jobs and soon the boom grew teats

 

educated baby dykes today do not know loss of freedom

or the true price of salt

they can rack up bed notches in reckless abandon

imitation not always the greatest flattery

but back then …

all so new and unsanctioned

people didn’t have road maps or internet

to gauge behavior by

and in the dirty rim of a third glass of whiskey

courage and terror would sometimes blind

best intention

 

girls today repeat the worst inventions

of boys without purpose

those early days of the movement

can a life be a movement?

they died weekly and by the hour

in shabby rooms without succor or sense

strangled by disease, shamed by the ‘told you so’s’

just coming out

only to climb into a coffin and be carried

jeers and spit and hate to their graves

where few wept, for they too shared death

mottled with kaposi’s sarcoma

some haters slinging mud shouted;

you depraved souls! You reap what you sow!

is this the word of Mohamed & Jesus?

or cruelty with nothing more than hate to grow?

 

now gays think they are safe

over the hump, socially acceptable

on TV, in your face, sitting next to you, earning more

painting their rooms mauve, their wallets thick

HIV can be lived past, no more automatic death sentence

adoption is legal, and marriage, a thriving business

do they even remember how many fell?

before they could inherit this tenuous hour?

 

the old man was one of fifty

the last survivor of his generation

depleted by silent war

struck down by AIDS and her harpies

over time even medication failing hope

or bodies, tired from their walk

collapsing on scalding streets without

the kindness of stranger

 

the old man, he cannot say to today’s youth

this is how it was, learn from the past

because they do not care, it is their time now

and if they knew it would not matter

only the hour of their immediacy

compelling them forward to their own history

one day past them and in reverse

they may share his loneliness then

too late

 

the old man

who used to be a beautiful boy

with golden skin and hazel eyes

a thick swath of black hair hanging like a wave

he looks at his gnarled hands and sagging arms

with their scars and their ragged hurt

and he wants to be as loud as the young

and shout out;

 

where have they gone?

the beautiful boys of my time?

why must I outlive them all and see in my decline

the loss of their right, to be recalled!

for whom among us, shall pick up the mantle

and say their names, once we are all

beneath earth?

an entire generation cut down

and smoothed over like asphalt

 

do we ever think of that?

in our perpetual urge to be present, in the moment?

those who have gone before

stand now like ghosts around him

an entire era

strangled before they ever could

inherit their voice

 

(This is my contribution to Pride Month. I want to remember those who are not here with us, because they died when they could have lived, if they had not been forgotten and repulsed. During and afterward, Africa was equally rejected, neglected, ignored, and millions died. Worldwide HIV/AIDS is still a death-sentence, make no mistake. Those with power decide who lives and dies, whose life has worth, whose does not, decisions are not made out of mercy they are made coldly with calculation and lack of compassion. All the rest is froth on a daydream. Our memories are sometimes the only thing keeping us from repeating history). #neverforget

 

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69 thoughts on “Inherit their voice

  1. An eloquent poem, Candice, which reminds us of how things were in the 80’s and 90’s. I knew some wonderful young men who died of AIDS (so very young!)… including a couple of classmates. And now, even now there are those who think it was their own fault, that they deserved it. Such thinking outrages me. I also know some women who were abused psychologically and still bear the scars. (Some withdrew into themselves while others are selfless humanitarians today.) Thank you for helping to make us all more aware.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad that my poem read as it did, because that was my aim. It was more prose-than poetry in that message. I feel strongly any purpose I ever have, is highlighting what is not or rarely highlighted. Seeing younger gay people who do not know their history or if they do, do not know it viserally, take for granted some of their freedoms, reminds me just as with women earning the vote, the importance of appreciating progress and recalling the need to never forget it was earned by blood, and on the backs of others. You are so right about women being abused and this not ever really being dealt with even today, look at Cosby, 50 women raped by him and people still query it? Just unbelievable. Thank you for reading this long poem and for being supportive of my aims!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Wonderful, poignant piece. I remember those days, when AIDS was rampant, and people were completely ignorant of it. Much like the sanctimonious preacher in the pic you used. Sadly, there are still many who believe that. I’ll never understand the levels of intolerance and ignorance humans are capable of.

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  3. A powerful poem with remembering those who’ve we lost and will always remember in our hearts.

    I hate religious institution who are still ignorant close minded, and still judge others based on their sexual orientation.

    You have the power sis. Love you.

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  4. That picture flew me into a rage! Because I know people still believe it.
    Your flow of words here is very poignant. Everyone living in the moment and wondering do you remember or even know what those have gone through FOR YOU to get to where you are. Very meaningful

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  5. Truthfully the thing that changed for ever my mindset on gay people was a movie from around that time.
    I twas about a gay son and his relationship with his father.
    The father disowned the son and all of the horrible grief and emotions that ensued forced me to ask myself the question, “what would I do?)
    What would I do if one of my children came to me to announce they were gay?
    The only answer I could give would be that I would hug them and accept what they were.
    For me it would not be a choice of accept or not as my children will always be my children.
    From that point forward the prejudice I learned from my father were swept aside by the simple fact that if my children would be accepted so should all.
    Thank you for the beautifully written reminder of that time.

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  6. Wonderful tribute, Candice. I remember the fear and dread of those years. I was 18 in 1984. And I think about how many more lives could have been saved if poverty and prejudice weren’t factors in treating and preventing disease. We don’t talk about HIV/AIDS enough anymore. Thank you for this – your poignant and powerful writing. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I know that feeling, Lyme and depression has me in a head lock. If my husband didn’t notice I wasn’t sleeping it would be so much easier. I’m tired to taking so many damn addictive pain pills on top of the other addictive drugs I take.
        I think we would get on just fine, no way could I match you in writing but real life, we have shit we both share it sounds like. You’re excellent, I know you hear it all the time but so many of your emotions sound like mine. I’ll keep coming around every post. Take care.
        M

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  7. Powerful, stunning writing, Candice. I remember when AIDS was ravaging the gay community. The lack of compassion was deplorable, but the insinuation that the disease was well-deserved or an act of god was beyond the pall. We continue to be a “Christian” nation afflicted with cruel righteousness.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Bless your heart Candice, I have seen what FB does to families. And never been tempted.. And no I will not stray far.. But I have not been on WP much either only moderating comments.. Summer is too precious to Miss with head in a key board.. So go smell the Roses too 🙂 my friend xxx Lots of Love.. Sue xx

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    1. Dearest Nan, Thank you so much both for reading this and commenting, it is very appreciated. Sorry for the late reply I have been feeling a little under the weather. Thank you again for your reblog when I saw that it made my day!

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  8. Well said. And yes, those lives were sadly lost tragically and unnecessarily, not at the hands of God but by the hands of men who stood to gain monetarily or politically from the Aids epidemic. That sign in the background represents man’s indictment of behavior and choices, be it homosexuality or any other of the ills that men/women succumb to. Jesus offered healing to lepers and all who asked, and He offers forgiveness for human frailties, including being judgmental or condemning among a host of other things. We are asked to love all who come our way and leave whatever needs to change or not change up to God and God only. We are asked to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to help strengthen each other in our faithfulness and willingness to be obedient to God’s will for our lives. Anyone who reads Scripture must know that some of the most influential people in the Bible were all flawed, murderers, prostitutes, and on and on the list goes. And yet the Maker of heaven and earth chose them and thought them worthy of furthering His kingdom. Love, hugs, and blessings, Natalie 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YOU are one of the good ones. I hope you ALWAYS remember that Natalie. My only refute would be I don’t see homosexuality as an ill other than ill-treated in society. Saying that, there are practices within every group including homosexuals, that do them no favors and this was true with HIV/AIDS as promiscuity and drug-use really exacerbated the growth. I don’t blame homosexuality but the life style that accompanied it for some, as with the life styles of some heterosexuals too. I don’t see homosexuality as a sin because I combed through the bible references and I see those as reference to sinful behavior like rape and sodomy against ones will or the taking of underage boys or exploitation. If one is born without an ability to love or be connected with someone of the opposite sex I would not condemn that person to a life of celibacy I would wish them love and if that is found with someone of the same-sex that’s not really a choice that’s their nature. Obviously we could argue a paedophile’s nature is to sexually abuse children but the difference is they hurt someone. I do not believe homsexuality hurts anyone but those who are condemned for it, so I am mindful of that in my approach to the subject. Aside that I totally am with you because judgement is flawed and we are not capable of judging others xo

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      1. The thing I most admire about you is your heart and your capacity for love and caring. This should not be a rare thing but it is and you are an example of how more people should be. Thank you – just for being the way you are.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The feelings are mutual my lovely feathered friend‼️ Two of the things I most admire about you love are your courage and honesty about what has hurt you so that me and others know we are not alone. You are truly the sunlight on cold water for many!!!!Je t’aime❣️😘😘😘

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I remember my officemate in grad school coming out to me. I and another woman in the department were the only people he had told. I’m sure he hadn’t told his family. It was before AIDS was being talked about very much in the general public or media, if at all, and I wonder what happened to him.

    I think there is an effort now to commemorate those who fought for justice and recognition. There was the recent TV mini-series, and I’ve seen things about Stonewall. It’s sad though that there are still those who want to take away rights. I don’t get it. Love is love.

    There are actually more women than men infected with HIV/AIDS in parts of Africa. In part this is because of the high number of rapes, and also cultures that don’t believe a woman has the right to say no to a man. My younger daughter once got in trouble with her teacher in 7th or 8th grade for telling the class that there were men in Africa who raped young girls because they thought raping a virgin would cure their AIDS. She learned this from her mom. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I knew I’d get the best reply from you because truthfully you know so much and I love that about you among other things. You inspire me to try harder to learn more. Thank you for being a person in this world where people are increasingly seeking to know less, who seeks to know more. I admire that about you so much. And also what you choose to care about and why. It is very sad that people should wish to take away rights but people like you rebalance this never forget that. You are right about women being more infected nowadays, I should write on this also. It is absolutely hideous to rape someone thinking it a cure but I had read that also. My mom comes from Egypt and there female circumsiscion is rife, and I grew up furious with this practice and the detrimental effect it has on women and girls. So this is one step away under the same guise really. Urgh. Thank you dearest Merril and sorry for the late reply I have not been feeling well xo

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Poetry’s muse, C,
    you do writing so well that my talent envies your ability. Well spoken my friend applause from silent hands in the corner. You can email me if you get this comment.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You are welcome and I always understand, life happens all the time. By the way I did a post called helpful books it is a thank you to you Your book was actually very helpful to me

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for sending me the link. This is a gorgeous, moving poem. I remember the young men who cluttered the beaches of the late 70’s and early 80’s and I remember them dying en mass a few years later. It was the women who volunteers to take care of the dying, as right wing ideologues clawed their way into power on the corpses of their patients.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rob, I am SO GLAD you saw this because I really hoped you would and that you would relate to some of it, as I do. I felt so powerfully a need to say something to this, because Pride is about history as much as about celebrating existence. Thank you so much for just existing. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your poem moved me to tears.

        In my recent reflections on the AIDS epidemic I understood that if large numbers LGBTQ people of the educated and upper middle class had not come out in the late 1970’s the movement would have died.

        Those who decry too much corporate influence and income disparity are obligated to speak out.

        But we should do so with respect for the contributions all of us have made to the survival of the idea.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I like that – your last line about the survival of the idea. Powerful words and thoughts. The movement would literally have died, that’s the horrifying aspect literal death not just figurative, though who cared? Few. Few cared. Even now so -called enlightened days of freedom and acceptance, not quite as the media would have it. And then to think if we went to another country, stoning? Death sentences? Nothing is free until everyone is free. I admire your work so much you know this, thank you, for being a voice much much much needed in this world Rob.

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  12. A wonderful piece of writing and heart dear Feathers. I see so much progress it makes me very hopeful. I have beautiful friends that mean so much to me it’s very important that we continue to work hard for advancement and against bigotry and bias. We can’t go back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you lovely girl – this means so much to me. Sorry that I took so long to reply been sick with nasty stomach flu or something. I definitely want to go forward, people say it’s like opening the flood gates or letting anything go, did you hear about how some paedophiles for example want to be added to the LGBTQ list? WTF? So of course, those against LGBTQ just think this means they sanction paedophiles, or that it’s synonymous, which is really faulty logic but … grrr. Such a tendency toward hate and bigotry. I felt this before I even ever experienced it. I hope more like yourself are in this world to counter it. Thank you for being one of the good ones, who shine the light in the dark corners Holly xo

      Liked by 1 person

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