Back to Issue Thirty-Eight




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?



Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate, is the only poet honored with both the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of Arts. Her recent works include Playlist for the ApocalypseSonata Mulattica, and the National Book Award–shortlisted Collected Poems: 1974–2004. In 2021 she was awarded the Gold Medal for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Charlottesville, where she teaches creative writing at the University of Virginia.

Next (Tucker Leighty-Phillips) >

< Previous (Chris Santiago)