from House of Heart
I wrote this poem in December 1984.
San Francisco’s gay men were hit hard by the AIDS epidemic: the sick and dying were everywhere and no one really knew how HIV was transmitted.
As the number of cases increased most of the healthy men I knew thought they were they were going to sicken and die.
The press called us the worried well.
I was 31. This is how I wanted to die.
If now is my time of dying
let it be a time of giving
a time of joy
an exchange of one gift
to be part of the plan
aware of the plan
God grant me grace
in this interlude
this movement foreword
this final act of life.
‘My Time of Dying’ Rob Goldstein 1984-2019
Portrait of Rob Goldstein by Nina Glaser
A fall leaf shudders
in a brief gust of wind:
(c) Rob Goldstein 2019
The alarm rang and the radio spat news.
Bonwit Teller opened his eyes to a foggy San Francisco morning.
He threw off the comforter, angrily pulled down the shades, and
crawled back into bed.
The phone rang
“Hi Bonwit, it’s Jerry. This is your wake-up call per your request.”
“Are you up?”
“That was a helluva rant you gave last night”
“Which one? I was drunk.”
“About Old Man Lazaro.”
Bonwit sat up.
Jerry continued: “You made Old Man Lazaro look like a jackass.”
Bonwit sighed: “I guess I owe him an apology. I say wicked things
when I’m drunk. Thanks for the wake-up Jerry.”
Market Street looked like an Exodus scene.
“Let my people go,” Bonwit heard a beggar say.
He dropped some cash into the beggars’ cup and hurried into
He saw another beggar sitting cross-legged in front of the
His sign read: “Dying from AIDS. Please help.”
Bonwit dropped some cash into his cup and hurried onto
Bonwit was desperate for the train to arrive.
He thought of Old Man Lazaro: his face boyish, yet old, kind, yet cruel.
Bonwit spat on that face and remembered his rage at last night’s dinner.
Lazaro compared Bonwit to a General in a noble army:
“That’s what you are.” Lazaro said. “The sales force is your army. They depend on you for supplies and protection. Your people need you Bonwit.”
“I’m just a fucking travel agent and you’re just an old queen!” Bonwit drunkenly snarled.
Bonwit rose from the station and entered the Pyramid.
Bonwit thought; I am truly a pain in the ass.
As if I don’t know why I’m here
He smiled benevolently at the housekeeper. “Good morning Violet.”
’’Morning Mister Teller.”
“Have I met my obligations to you this week?”
“I got a paycheck if that’s what you mean?”
“I’m so pleased.” Bonwit replied.
He entered his office and rang his secretary: “Mary, will you call the Whiskey Shop and have a bottle of Macallan 1939 delivered to Mr. Lazaro?
“Yes Mr. Teller. Mr. Lazaro is in his office. He wants to meet with you.”
Bonwit entered Lazaro’s office and took a seat.
Lazaro glared at him. “Bonwit, darling! You’re late.”
“I walked this morning.”
Lazaro laughed. “I’m removing you from the Booth Account. Shirley
complained this morning.”
“She said Baxter’s tickets were late.”
“I had those tickets printed and sent before Shirley ordered them.”
Lazaro shrugged and smiled. “Maybe she has it in for you. Maybe she doesn’t
like old queens.”
Bonwit returned to his office and crossed to the picture window
behind his desk.
He studied the expanse of the Bridge and the shimmering blue
(c) Rob Goldstein 2015-2019
‘Behind the Pyramid’ (c) Rob Goldstein
First posted May, 2017-Revised and re-posted January 2019.