By Greg Bisendine
An artist reacts to artists reacting to AIDS in America.
Thank God the AIDS crisis is over, thank God it’s a problem of the 80s,
like parachute pants, spiked hair and cocaine addiction.
I am at a museum, I am at an exhibit about AIDS,
I am surrounded by art about dead people,
art by dead people.
This is not my story. I am not affected by AIDS.
As if AIDS was a storm over some other part of the city,
a hungry lion burst from the forest into an unsuspecting African village,
a sinkhole that swallowed an entire family when everyone else was at the county fair.
As if AIDS was a speed bump that America encountered on the best road trip ever.
As if AIDS was not a metaphor at all but a virus.
A virus that eviscerates immunity,
a virus that oozes and bleeds and drips inelegantly from orifices and sores,
as if it was a virus that strikes at the core of our squeamish fear of sex,
a virus that punishes men for sex with other men,
punishes men for fucking.
Thank God the AIDS crisis is over.
A patriarchy fears nothing as much as emasculation.
Fears nothing as much as a man submitting to be penetrated like a woman.
Faced with this aberration in nature, President Reagan, and our leaders, and our people
were struck mute.
As if thousands of disease riddled corpses were speed bumps
for which America did not slow down.
And instead of lifting up the sick, the righteous
called fire down onto the abomination of homosexuality,
proclaiming AIDS as just punishment from the God
who had already stated his sexual preferences
when he brought us an immaculate conception.
Art about AIDS is not immaculate, it is ugly and uncomfortable.
There are fluids in frames,
a leather shroud of sweat,
paintings like open sores,
and the stained underwear of a man
who wasted to his death decades ago.
Thank God the AIDS crisis is over. This is not my story. I am not affected by AIDS.
I take a blue pill every morning as a gauzy shield against HIV infection.
I take a blue pill every morning because the secret I’m not supposed to tell is that
sometimes I choose hot, risky, MESSY sex over the immaculate interaction.
I take a blue pill every morning and most days when I do I don’t think about AIDS.
But sometimes, when I walk through a graveyard gallery of men who looked like me,
I remember how at 24 I learned that being true to myself meant I might die for it.
I take a blue pill every morning because drug companies and politicians are on board now
and want you to know that sex should be safe because,
if you can imagine,
you’re at risk, even
if you aren’t gay.
This poem was previously published by Drunk in a Midnight Choir.