new york, 1984

by Lydia Wei

everything was a conflation of love and mortality, always had been,
        always has been how everyone lives,
                                       but we hadn’t expected it like this.
                         only yesterday we were in love. i had been waiting for the
         right look and suddenly he turned into a pile of sparrow bones,
                                                 into hunger. i held him so tenderly
         you could’ve heard a penny drop. a heart stop. outside
                           the cars went by on seventh avenue and he
shivered, terrible. his face was hidden in a cocoon of flesh, of purple
                                                                                                    marks,
          and i wanted to believe that something beautiful would
                                emerge, but death merely flitted at the
          window panes. meanwhile
                                                   they called it the gay plague. meanwhile
                       they wouldn’t even come near us because we were made of
glaciers and icarian destinies. meanwhile larry speakes was too busy
          drilling punchlines to care. meanwhile
         it was because we loved one another, they said, because
         we loved that we died, cupid’s arrow laced with hemlock. meanwhile
                                    they cried innocence in nature’s retribution, and
                 they shall be crowned in church bells and the autumnal breezes,
          amazing grace drifting from funerals, dead bodies in the whispering
                                                                                                      pines—
                                      in the inner cities. on the steps of the FDA.
                  meanwhile men in washington burned our obituaries and rose
           triumphal from the ashes drafting laws,
stoning us. meanwhile they condemned us from their handsome pulpits,
                                                 but they forgot that
                          hell was nothing much: a sterilized needle. clean, clean
             spaces O great windows and white walls. meanwhile
                                                 the cars were going by on seventh avenue.
                           meanwhile people were dying. meanwhile
                                      we were dying.