“Wednesday HIV Clinic”
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I. Adverse Reaction
“Pray for me,” she asks, her head covered in
a polyester scarf. She doesn’t hide
herself for shame; she’s lost her hair. We think
it was the AZT. She says that through
the walls of all her suffering, she thinks
she hears God’s distant voice when her young son
reads from his new storybook. She’s so proud
he’s learning English. “Pray for him,” she asks
before she leaves, “that he may have enough
to bury me in a fine new white dress!”
II. Failure to Thrive
He weighs less than ninety pounds. Years ago,
he was a bodybuilder. Muscular
and tanned, he looks like someone else back then,
the photograph he shows me faded now.
“You know, even my cock has shriveled up,”
he says. “No one would want to fuck me now.”
He undresses very slowly; I count
his ribs while he fumbles with the blue gown.
When I touch him, he avoids my eyes, stares
up at the blank ceiling instead, and cries.
I see him sometimes when I’m walking home.
He holds his children’s hands, refuses to