The International AIDS Conference concluded a few days ago in Washington, DC, amidst some surprising reports that researchers are figuring out how to–cure–the virus.
I have to admit, that as welcome as this news is, I am not getting my hopes up too much. I do not have HIV/AIDS myself, but do have plenty of other presently incurable ailments. For decades I have heard “a cure is 5 years away!!” for conditions way too biologically complex to abolished so quickly and simplistically.
Yet things have definitely improved since the beginning of the pandemic among gay men in 1980s San Francisco, a time, place, and culture David Weissman poignantly documents in “We Were Here.”
But hugely unresolved political questions of access and resource allocation persist. We have long known how to turn HIV/AIDS from a death sentence into a chronic disease. More and more infected people are getting the health care they need to accomplish this transformation. And millions of others still are dying preventable premature deaths because they aren’t. As my friend Cayce asks in this very context: “When will we learn that every life matters?”
I wonder how many have come back from the brink, and how many have fallen off–or been pushed off it– all too soon, since the time recounted in my poem “Opening Day.” It is about the arrival of the AIDS Quilt in Cape Town, South Africa, the launch for the 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions.
I will let the poem speak for itself (which I generally prefer to do). With a prayer that every day be a day of opening towards all the living and the dead of this pandemic.
The Summer 2012 issue of the unique and lovely journal Astropoetica: Mapping the Stars Through Poetry includes my long poem “Call and Response.”
“Call and Response” travels far and wide, speaking of the Divine, science, music, African American history and the reading of the skies. It is dedicated to my grandson and his slave ancestors, whose specific names and stories we do not know but who remain present.
As a toddler, I flipped out over the indecipherable chirality of my two hands. As far back as I can remember, spatial relationships and mathematics have addled, disoriented, and tormented me. To the extent that some people, including a couple of teachers, taunted me as “stupid” or asked, “If you’re supposed to be so smart, why are you so stupid?” I don’t know how I ever managed to get a degree in molecular biology. Really.
But in the context of music, spatiality and math have always suddenly and mysteriously become clear. Hands–even my gnarled hands–on the keyboard, voice moving up and down and around the staff, whether it is notated on paper or simply in my larynx. I can deal with that. I love to deal with that.
In words I have also felt that sudden place of lucid safety, the relief from overweening, maddening convolutions I can only untangle at the slowest pace, if at all. Even in prepositions.
Yet words and music are not simply double negatives for me, valuable only for what they relieve. They are a hospitable home for me, whose double sides are closer than the two halves of a duplex. A home I have carried everywhere I have ever lived, even during a nomadic childhood with its long spells of despair that it could ever really be my permanent address (permanent as far as a single human lifetime goes, anyway).
Despair that revisits me sometimes, especially when I wonder how good a poet and musician I would have been by now–how lived in words and music would be by now– if I had continuously recognized and remembered that address much earlier in life. Would I feel any less lost than I do at the moment? Would I be more capable of offering work in a healing spirit of selflessness?
John Guzlowski is the author of Lightning and Ashes (Steel Toe Books, 2007), a poetry collection about his Holocaust survivor parents who emigrated to the US. He writes even about the ugly realities of history with a beautiful simplicity of heart and language. And he is always looking out for other writers.
So I am very happy and grateful that he mentions and links to this website and my latest poetry publication at his blog Writing the Polish Diapsora.
I am pleased to be in such good company there, including Christina Pacosz, Leonard Kress, Maja Trochimczyk, and Oriana Ivy. If you are looking for excellent writers that maybe are new to you, or even if they aren’t, John’s latest “What’s New? — Co nowego?” post alone will keep you busy.
Today I feel bereft of sparkling repartee. I can blame that, can’t I, on the heavy ground level ozone and 104 degree climate changed Upper Midwestern heat that even the near blue cooling presence of Lake Michigan cannot fully dispel, and which leaks in past the overtaxed air conditioner that nevertheless keeps my chronically ill self out of the hospital.
But what better day to go live with this website? After all, it has been up and running for some days now. It is time to tell people it is here.
In fact, I first registered this site in 2008. But then stuff happened out of the blue. For example, my grandson was born, and with a rare life threatening gut disability that required a series of surgeries and three months in the hospital. Then I was diagnosed with a rare adrenal disorder, a major addition to my already large throng of nontrivial maladies. Fortunately, my grandbaby is now fine. I have adjusted better to my new disorder.
Time to recommit, again, to writing and sharing poetry.
For the supremely far out jazz musician Sun Ra, space was the place. Such is not quite the case for me, although I love the heavens (and I would never tell anyone if I was from Saturn like he said he was). Planet Earth is evidently where I keep on belonging. And this is the place on Earth if you want to read and follow my work as a poet. Glad to be here, glad to have you. Please visit often.