My Time of Dying

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.

With cases of AIDS becoming more widespread every week, the United States is undergoing a second, related epidemic–fear of AIDS.  The Chicago Tribune August 1985

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
for another
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

St. Mary’s Hospital, November 1986

I drift across the day room and settle on a couch in front of the
television.

Lucy and Ricky slug it out in the gender wars of the 1950’s.

“I juss wan’ choo to be ma wife, Loosy.” Ricky croons; and Lucy
is, with all the weaponized femininity she can muster.

My doctor arrives.

He’s an arrogant middle class man who tells me I define
myself by pain; that I just lost two friends to a virus killing
everyone I know is incidental.

No one in his world is grieving the death of fags.

In his world, fags are cautionary tales on the evening news: I am
what happens to perverts.

“You moof from walla pain to walla pain,” he says, with a vaguely
German accent.

I want to shove my fist through his skull, but I widen my eyes and
agree like a good little Lucy putting the hit on Ricky for a new
hat.

I just want to get out of here.

I will suck up to the staff like a five-year old who knows he’s cute.

I will swallow their pills and get fat on hetero-sexist sanity.

I am smart enough to stop trying to force them to act behave like
they care.

Animated Gif from the I Love Lucy Show in which Ricky tells Lucy that he's the man and she's the woman and she does what he says
found on GIPHY


In 1986, HIV was spreading quickly;  by the end of that year, 11,932 people, most of them gay and bisexual men, had died from AIDS.  

Rob Goldstein (c) 2018 All Rights Reserved

Still shot from ‘I Love Lucy’ is in the public domain
Animated Gif found on GIPHY

Inherit their voice

from the Feathered Sleep

TheFeatheredSleep

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…

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