BY RITA DOVE
Seventh Testimony: The Age of AIDS
Anywhere. Anyone. Men, boys—but women, too, and
Children, babies unborn in the womb. Doctors dispensing
Every kind of diagnosis, fear fueling rumors as the flowers
Germinate and spread, voracious; a purple hemlock
Inching trunk to collarbone, jaw to ear to eye.
Kisses sicken; loving any body but your own
May kill. Semen, needles, saliva, breast milk—
On and on the list unfurls, a dread epitaph proclaiming
Queer. Rail against the fleeing gods,
Spit into the wind; you’ll tire soon enough. The worst is always
Unimaginable, though you knew well before the verdict dropped—
Weakness. Fever. Chills. Those greedy, X-rated blooms. Now
You tell me: What’s a zero hour with no one left to count?