From the collection Desert Walking, by Kenny Fries. This poem originally appeared in The Progressive.


To The Poet Whose Lover Has Died Of AIDS

. . . then the wasting begins

and the disappearance a day at a time.

-- Mark Doty


The night of your reading I notice he has carved

a place for his wheelchair. But after the first

poem, through the applause, the noise of moving

out of his way. Then, only the space remains

and nobody, not even those standing, eyeing

what was his position, will take his place.

The next day, when you tell me he wet himself

and could not stay, I think how leaving causes so much

commotion, how in school during rollcall the teacher

never knew how long to wait for the voice, present,

before moving on to the next name in the order.

The tittering, the shifting in chairs, when it went on

too long. When you first told me he was sick,

I could not ask if you, too, were infected --

I searched your poems for clues. Now he has died

and I have gone back to read your poems, needing

your words to prove love does not disappear

a day at a time. All those years together,

over a decade of loss, and I don't know

what's left to say. If we are given love

only to have it taken away, what solace

can anyone offer but your voice be present

among the shifting chairs, the embarrassed noises

of absence. The wait is always too long.

-- Kenny Fries



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