Photo by Jackson Harris/OutWrite
This poem was originally published in our Fall 2022 print issue “Satanic Panic.“
I have this dream of dying in complete silence, and when the neighbors call to complain about the smell a few days later (and the firemen kick the door in), they’ll find my mother sitting calmly at the dining room table, knife in hand around a halo of sunburnt faces cutting branches from the family tree
no one left to know what’ll become of me a week later in the paper, cause of death: unknown
so I try not to sleep alone anymore — I keep my bandannas in a box filled with all the pictures from a life before: little girls who’ve lost their baby teeth and seashells drowned in bodega bleach covered in fabrics that gather on soap-stained floors
right pocket, dark blue
it’s pandemonium, uncontrollable, the blood rush to your cheeks. and this growing fear blooming deep inside: man, human, weapon, or disease?
everybody dressed in black
they tell you that your kidneys will fail pretty early on—
me, in my best suit
in-between the intake pages and the awkward exchanging of names
and someone brought a bouquet of flowers,
and i’m not positive, but there’s something i’m expected to say
keep your hands where we can see them please
and death is a friend while flesh is containment
I believe in a short-term treatment plan. only the best.
can you surrender?
disinfecting nail beds
God loves you
I am bleeding through my teeth
but not enough to save you
and on the choir sings
‘There wasn’t a day when I didn’t think about it’
there are fireworks in my eyes
‘and certainly every time I had a sexual encounter’
‘it was in the front of my mind’
‘It inhibited me developing good close relationships’
but I’ve always been strong
‘A lot of my sex experiences were very furtive because of that’
can you surrender?
‘A nurse came out and put me in a side room and said,
“I’m very sorry, he’s just died.”’
do you dare to sing along?
‘She asked me who I was and I said, “I’m his boyfriend.”’
Quotes sourced from “‘We were so scared’: Four people who faced the horror of Aids in the 80s.”
Author: Jackson Harris (He/Him)
Artist: Jackson Harris (He/Him)
Copy Editors: Bella (She/They), Emma Blakely (They/She/He)