for Dan Eilola

He was so goddamn beautiful the gods were jealous
just like they teach us in school.
Imperious, brilliant, fearless
he embraced life through the bodies of men.
In our ambulance he was cool, decisive,
and loved requesting backup. Why? I demanded, full of valor,
wanting to show my independence. He pointed out
that when the firefighters came you got a dozen handsome men
dressed in rubber clothing and eager to do your bidding.
What was wrong with that?

Yes he was gay and yes he died of AIDS
and now you think you know all about us.

A sore lip that wouldn’t heal needed surgery,
then another operation, the handsome face lost
forever behind the bulky bandages.
In the hospital, the smell kept us all from eating
the food we had brought him.
We lit cigarettes on the outside patio
under the watchful and disapproving eyes
of the nurses. He laughed, waving his cigarette in that elegant,
autocratic hand, saying, What can they do, throw me out?
Beside, dear, it takes away that smell, doesn’t it?

Yes he was gay and yes he died of AIDS
and now you think you know all about us.

He cast an approving if jaded eye on men who sought
my favors, drawn to a woman in uniform
with round muscular arms and buttocks, but one day,
irritated by some swain in the emergency room of St Francis,
he declared that the fool was wasting his time, my husband had nice big hands,
spoke English and had a much bigger basket.

He liked to park our ambulance at Castro and 18th Street
to watch the men in summer. It was 1985 and the boys were splendid
in sweaty, well-oiled skin, boots with untied laces, short shorts,
blazing in the sunshine. They knew him. He was a legend,
going into the bars with him was a royal privilege, I knew. The men posed
in fetching attitudes of sultry desire, on their way to the clubs.
Frowning he lectured them, don't go, be safe, but they were perfectly healthy
and besides they wouldn’t fuck anyone who didn’t look right. They didn’t listen,

wings fluttering, they flew away laughing
and we cried together in our ambulance.

We had health meetings where we heard scattered
desperate explanations from dedicated public servants
with no idea at all what was happening: GRID, the new cancer,
we might see in the form of purple lesions on the legs
but this was puzzling because these spots only appeared on the legs
of elderly Italian men. Warnings and portents from a dreadful future
not yet visible. At question time, he calmly asked,
How does the cancer know that you’re gay?

yes he was gay and yes he died of AIDS
and now you think you know all about us.

Just before the second surgery he and his lover
held their summer party. They gave the best parties. Our teenager
loved her uncles, and in time she paid a heavy price for that love.
At the party we reveled in their beautiful yard in the back
of their beautiful little house, eating juicy hamburgers, corn on the cob,
salad, fruit and a new delight, sorbet made at home from frozen raspberries,
delicious beyond belief. How we celebrated for the pure and simple joy of it
drinking beer and whiskey and he, kneeling, embraced me
declaring, I love these powerful legs, these childbearing hips,

these fecund breasts, this beautiful, intelligent face!
his hands cupping each attribute in turn. My child and husband
laughed and everybody cheered because life was wonderful, and we knew it.

Yes he was gay and yes he died of AIDS and now you think.


                                                                                         next page  "O Prometheus"

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