Gay pride rally, 1993
We all knew he was dying
or no one knew
or only I knew
it was imminent
and we were all smiling.
Maybe my smile was venial,
maybe it eased his path,
maybe we thought he was immanent, god-like,
I don’t know, we were moving our bodies
recklessly, with dark energy.
The emanations were raw and demanding,
he sat unmoving in a wheelchair,
dying, his energy entirely consumed
with illness and pain, a kind of pain,
he informed us, we knew nothing about.
On the video, we are smiling.
It deflected my pain somewhat,
I don’t know if it mitigated his, if he forgave
absences and betrayals for its sweetness.
I couldn’t watch over him perfectly.
Who could? In the video, we were kissing
and shoulder-shrugging and hugging
while he emptied everything
into a container for our grief.
How could he have left me standing there
we were kissing and smiling,
so much smiling,
and when he took a bite of sandwich, even I forgot.
In the hospital
he whispered calories
head hunched over the bowl.
I wondered why he would eat at all.
I stupidly wondered, why eat
when you are going to die.
We carried him down four flights of stairs,
wheeled him to the park,
to the rally—
we were nothing if not proud
but of what? As he died. Of what
as he died? Of what?
He left. Here is this video, watch us
prancing and laughing
around his dying body
pulled into empty sunshine.
You could watch the video
and think you know something about me.
Well let me tell you,
I could write.
I could write for days.
You would still know nothing.