Reliving with HIV

I moved to Toronto in 1979. In that first year I got sober, met the man I still share life with, and lost the job that brought me to Toronto. The second year I was working closely with gay men in recovery. The gay cancer – GRID – was already taking its toll on the community. When it first became AIDS – people were confused with Aydes: a diet candy – which went out of business partly because of the phonetic associate with the disease.

A couple of men in 12-step-recovery got me involved in what eventually became ACT – The AIDS Committee of Toronto. I attended those early board meetings as a group of men, women, gay, queer, lesbian, straight created a structure for dealing with what became a holocaust. I helped create the buddy system. Did home care for men I knew. I cycled out of committee work & became part of a meditation, healing circle. I buried more people that I can count.

That’s not a resume I care to reflect upon but recently I read “Hold tight gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the battlefield of AIDS” by Martin B Duberman. It looks at the history of HIV activism in the USA though the lives of two talented men. One white, one black. You know, I can’t recall many minorities participating in those early days when ACT was being shaped here in Toronto. This book reveals the complexity of class, race & marginalization.

Reading it I relived my own fears, frustrations & powerlessness in those years. I felt grief as each – Michael, then Essex died as a result of the inability & unwillingness of the medical community to deal with the crisis. The book also reveals in detail how the marginalized minorities were often left to their own devices to be included in anyway.

The music of Michael Callen is still available on iTunes, check him out on YouTube. More cabaret style though his days with the Flirtations and great fun. Essex Hemphill’s spokenword can be seen on YouTube as well, but be warned he is a brilliant, fearless & confrontative in ways that are still challenging today. Some made me tear up. Sadly most of his writing is out of print 😦 (I’ve ordered two of the out-of-prints via Abe Books). His poetry is breathtaking & heart stopping. His open-hearted emotional frankness has now become one of my inspirations.

Formative

she asked

are you married single 

neither

widower

nope

you have to be one those

I’ve lived with my partner 

for over twenty years 

we aren’t married.

oh, I that’s common-law

what is her name

his name you mean

oh there’s no place 

on this form for male spouse

he isn’t my spouse

he’s my partner

very well 

I’ll put own common-law 

 

now what religion are you

none

oh you don’t believe in God 

as matter of fact I do believe in God

then what faith do you practice

none

but you can’t believe in God 

and not have faith 

I do have faith

I do believe in God 

but I’m not caught up 

in any religious persuasion

I’ll say atheist then

atheists don’t believe in God 

I reminded her

but I have to have answers for this form

I’ll just put down atheist

no I am not an atheists 

is there a place there for heretic

no

 

then the form is fascist

it doesn’t allow 

for practices 

other than those it defines 

as acceptable 

I didn’t create the form sir 

I’m just filling it in

but you made that judgment call 

didn’t you

that if I wasn’t religious 

I had to be atheist 

agnostic at best

 

we can skip that  part of the form

then why is it there

for statistical purposes sir

but the only people 

who get statistically counted 

are those whom the form allows 

to be included

what about us who don’t fit 

the confines of the form

don’t we get counted

you get counted as nonbelievers

but I just told you I do believe in God

I’m just not Catholic

Buddhist

Jewish or whatever 

possible categories you have 

on that form

isn’t there a box you can check for other

no sir there isn’t

let’s move on please

 

what political party do you support

is this as relevant 

as the religious question 

or just more statistical information

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

every Tuesday 2019


June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

 

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