Harry Twenty Years On

He was raised
To quote chapter and verse.
A true believer
Not even for silver —
Just certainty.

Unlocking the door
He slumped against the wall.
I helped him to the sofa;
Easy in his small studio,
Past the kitchenette,
A spice rack filled
With myriad medications hung
Beneath photos of young Natalie Wood
And young Dean Cain.

A beautiful drive,
A chance to talk, about god
And California and the Hemlock Society
And would I help him —
A promise never tested.

I searched for music on the radio,
The thing that had brought us together
In high school.
He would have liked the club mix of
Where The Streets Have No Name.
I was thinking the theme to
Midnight Cowboy.

An hour later, at the hospital
It occurred to me
The staff believed I was his partner.
It never occurred to me
To correct them.
The memory of their kindness
Melts my heart still.

A drainage tube in his back.
A little more life in his eyes.
His wit and humor diminished
But still potent.
When his parents arrived
I was barely there.
They were unwilling
Or ill-equipped to be
In such a moment.

They displayed the same countenance
At the memorial, a formality,
Something to endure.
I said I didn’t know
Where we go
When we die, if anywhere.
But I hoped some of my loved ones
Now had the pleasure of his company.
And I wondered
Who among his family
Had had to box up his gay porn.

I still hear his voice.
I struggle to write his story.
To remember
All the ways
Healing never happens.


Originally published in HIV Here & Now.

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