Lynne, we met the day Don asked to suck me off
– not my cock, he made clear, but toes, without socks
[boys in sandals got him off] – you wheel through that memory,
your legs in casts, [the virus rhyming RNA
to [reverse transcriptase] your DNA]
bones sapped [combivir, saquinavir, ritonavir] by the daily
pharmablasts to make you gag and keep the docs away.
Those were the days we worked in then:
homeless guys down on 2nd drunk on Old Stock beer by 10,
sex workers [hookers] dazed by night work
up from the streets for the free lipstick
and condoms [safes] we dispensed, high on heroin [smack],
or [as the cell becomes a sieve] coke [crack],
eyes blue with [another negative test] mascara or black
from pimp beatings in the parking lot [turns positive] out back.
Lynne, you fundraised, you spoke, you organized,
you were one of the few who could help men die
and I never once saw you, like me, teary-eyed.
Every day since then [this, the line I tend], I
see it, think it, caught [daring words to mean]
by habit [everything I’ve touched and seen]
my fingers still type its name [all caps]: “it”
that floating thing [Sex = Silence = Death] called a referent
as in The doc says I’ve got IT – voice quiver bold italics
carrying us away from the linguistic
things we never wanted meant: GRID, the gay plague,
the empty cipher AIDS, and Christian placards saying God Loves Fags
[Insert thread: deadbody: doc, i’m 21
& just found out ive got HIV – i’m done]
Dead. I write it now between the faces
of the faceless
men who came and went [Figure 1: see this micron pic
of a lymphocyte swarmed by neon pink
viral replicants, look how they shimmer and dance -- a sequin dress
of nothingness] like so many torn couplets
each with something new to mend.
Lynn, we were the same age but you got fucked
[the body with sex is blessed] and I didn’t
that’s where our stories split – fucked
by a boyfriend who didn’t know he had it,
fucked by the used needle he shot with, the pusher who pushed it,
fucked [it’s also never at rest] by the grower
who grew it, the mule who shoved it up his ass at the border
and got through it, fucked [and can churn for years] by their needles
and plastic, the politicians with their votes
and budgets, and fucked [in its own blood] by the poster saying
He [a woman carrying a boychild] Was An Innocent Victim meaning
everyone else [and tears] deserved it.
You got fucked by [the infinite] a virus [and its 33,000,000 faces]
that loves everything it erases.
Lynne, so many words [you and the drugs got better] to say it,
why [we slept together in your bed] I haven’t looked
for you since then, [no stupid rhymes] scared
of knocking you from that past [the living with the dead]
tense where [your bones began to mend]
a whole new life [no one screamed when you bled] was inserted in.
a recombinant documentary poem
so doc what do I do?
every time my fear of getting aids
is so intense
(too much soul pain)
iam a 25yr old guy
(from a very small town
and moved to the city for a better gay life)
gave fellatio to a Thai lady boy
(i had my curiosity, i aint gonna lie)
we met through web chatting
hand jobs in the cafeteria
her mouth in the theatre
(last 1 minute, ejaculation
I believe the fear of AIDS
is remorse when sex is bad
(trans , girl that I dont like
and that is not very serious.)
I would like an advice from you
on how to manage death :
Is it acceptable to be with trans girl
that he does not like?
I kissed her sucked there nipples
Could this be late conversion?
blow jobs with lots of tongue
i purchased a lot of condom,
when you go to france
you gonna need em!!
i met with lot of girls
this guy i shared bleached needles with
hiv+, i am worried this guy
i can't eat or drink
I realise I’m a late converter
god, i don't have much time
i need to know if you think this case?
I was at a strip club and the stripper tongued my ear --
is this HIV?
1 in 1,000? 10,000? 100,000?
listen I am totally fuc
i might actually kill myself
I have a friend, 35,
bottomed his way to the top
(los CD4 eran 620 y la CV indetectable)
b/f cheated with a trisexual
the girl he was killed herself
because her husband had aids
He said he had been being tested
butt he condom broke
there might have been pre cum,
I can’t say there wasn’t pre cum
could there have been precum?
should i start talking pep?
ive always known I was positive
(it must be a rare strain)
i have no desire
for a med filled life with sides
Is my whole life pre cum?
.please save me
Now i want to make sex with wife
shall i wear that latex garbage condom?
52 year old woman in menopause
she is a slut or i dunno
but god i love this girl
unusual vaginal discharge
(five years in that army)
(antigenic shift and drift)
lubed with spit it hurt so bad
i had blood
and sucked his nipples
(I am pretty
sure there wa snom ilk)
I just need to know if 1.
Was the protracted bj and nipple sucking
even worth it?
would HIV survive a lollipop?
book? brother in law?
(cuz the virus is all over the place
but gets active when it gets into an orgasm)
God, I'm only fifteen and I don't want something like that!
i swallowed my own sperm
and its quite many!!
PLS help me!!!
If a guy give another guy oral
(everyone cums in his mouth)
does he can still live healthy forever
& live happily ever after with me?
i love him so much! very2 much!!!
I parked my car
mon chere docteur, j'ai tellement besoin
I guess I’m reching out tonight
I guess I find my strength
I guess i wanna know
whos neg whos poz
when every ache, every cough
is the virus taking away
I mean, I knew it was the HIV
killing me slowly
you see, i’d been neg 23 times
when he raped me
and ejaculated inside me
and youre the first person I’m shearing this with
Hello, I can’t pay for one of my meds this month
Hello, I’ve become resistant
Hello, I’m using a vibrator in the shape of a pussy
with an open sore on top of my virginia
we did it in my backside
(illegal in North Carolina)
I licked her clit vigorously
barebacked three tops
(fucked by man with Jesus tattoo pero
no hubo eyaculación interna ni sangramiento)
and wonder if that makes the odds more even?
you see, we lost our baby
and he wants to have another
(viral load over 10 million)
but I won’t make it –
so doc what do I do?
it’s all there is
it’s expanding, bit by bit
it’s broken, as you can see, into little units
it makes it difficult to predict
it’s there one moment, you can see it, and then
it’s here, though, hot with spirit
it’s terrifying, yet,
it generally mimics and resists
it’s this intuitive structure, though, when you read it
it’s so full of it
its gathered itself into it
it’s soft and abundant as ocean sand, yet
it holds more appeal than its flimsy content insists
it’s the only thing you’ll need to know because of it
it’s, as you can imagine, a conduit
it’s so eager to profit, yet, to its credit,
it has left little deposits
it’s still, albeit, hit and miss
it’s on the very edge of it
it keeps it fit
it’s here, where we, as you can feel, so intimate, kissed it
its clit, yes,
it aches for it
it aches with it
its antithesis, yet,
it’s, like Plato, discomfited by it
it doesn’t know how to act when it’s like this
it’s embarrassed by its habits
it gets repetitive, though, after a while
it’s getting so big don’t be surprised you can’t finish it
it could, I admit, use some judicious edits
its derelict surfeit
its black vomit
it has, when you see it, this, sort of, limitless kitsch
it’s an, some would say, impediment, yet
it’s so much more than even I can say it is
it preens its counterfeits
it’s waited so long at the margins, silent, against it
it’s, I mean, against all of it
it’s gone too far
its killing it
it’s, as you can see, reached its limits
it can’t remember where it is, what it is
it’s had it
it means it
(Poems are excerpts from Err by Shane Rhodes, copyright © 2011 by Nightwood Editions. Used with permission from the publisher.)
Using the prescriptive constraints of found poetry, all words in these poems from X are from the Government of Canada transcripts of the Post-Confederation Treaties (also called the numbered treaties, one through eleven). Conducted by the British Crown and the Government of Canada over a fifty-year period, the treaties are the legal and literary basis of one the largest systematic, colonial land appropriations in the world. Daunting of the history and future they carry and their impenetrable legal diction, these texts are the foundational logic of Canadian colonization and ongoing settler, First Nations, Inuit and Metis relations.
the place of commencement
from the mouth
our starting point
at the Blackfoot Crossing of the Bow River
at Manitoba Post
in this present year 1899
this fifteenth day of September
we anchored off the mouth
where the North river flows out of the main stream
where no white man would have any claims
we found the Indians
we found many
we had grave doubts
we were then carrying a great weight
we came to the conclusion
we had to
and we left
on the several dates mentioned therein
in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy
on this day of October
to preserve her Indian subjects
to deliberate upon certain matters of interest
to Her Most Gracious Majesty
of the one part,
and the said Indians
of the other
each performed their several duties
to our great satisfaction
at a point where the “Suicide”
made and concluded
WE, the undersigned
Indians of Wapiscow
we and our children
we thank thee
we thank thee
we thank you (commissioners)
from our hearts
that we may be saved
from the evil
from Fort Garry westward
and from Her Majesty
Indians of the said
Indians of the other
we begin again
so long as the fur bearing animals remain
in the year of Our Lord
on this day of
at the place of
as may have been grunted
As aforesaid within, hereunto the hereinafter, thereupon and hereby thereof. That is to say, within the aforesaid that whatsoever thereto, that is, the whereas within, thereon. Therein, however, that whereas, hereinafter elsewhere, thereto unless therefor. That within the that that is that, what soever, forever within the hereby, that thereupon, there is is heretofore that within. Whereas, that is to say, inasmuch hereby in that, therefor hereinafter within this. Within therein that is. Within, that is, thereabout unless thereof—hereafter throughout. And, as aforesaid, any part thereof otherwise elsewhere or hereinbefore hereby—thereto, as aforesaid, hereof within whenever. Thereon thereof whatsoever wherever forever. That is to say, however, therein thereout, therefore within. Whereas thereof, hereby within. Within the aforesaid, therefor within the hereinafter.
where there is oil
fOr his majeSTy
all THeir rights titlEs
that iS to say: an area OF apprOxImateLy three hundred AND
square mILeS seventy-twO thousand
tO have and to hoLD
aNd his majesTy
to lay asiDe
(Poems are excerpts from X by Shane Rhodes, copyright © 2013 by Nightwood Editions. Used with permission from the publisher.)
Ben Ladouceur: Do you consider poetry to be an effective medium for instigating change in the world? To what extent, if any, do you consider yourself an activist?
Shane Rhodes: A molotov cocktail, a political slogan or a legislated bill are probably better ways to instigate change in the world than a poem. In many places, poetry is part of the larger cacophonous conversation that a society has with itself about what it is doing, what it has done and where it is going. Poetry does nothing. Poetry does everything.
Does writing about important things, things that perhaps some would rather not talk about, make one an activist? That seems a low threshold. Or, in a society engineered only to work and consume, maybe such couchbound passivity is now seen as activism? I write poetry about the things that interest me – whether that be how racism and colonization function within Canada or how we approach sexuality, homosexuality and something like the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Given poetry’s lifeblood is language, it’s a useful art to understand, investigate and display how certain phenomena – like race, like sex, like historical myth making – function and exist in and through language. I don’t buy the prissy clichés of poetry being beautiful words about beautiful things. I write ugly poems about ugly things. I'm an uglivist.
Ben Ladouceur lives in Toronto. His work has been published in many Canadian magazines including The Walrus, and in the Best Canadian Poetry anthology series. He was awarded the 2013 Earle Birney Poetry Prize.
Shane Rhodes is the author of five books of poetry including his most recent X (2013) and Err, both with Nightwood Editions. Shane has won an Alberta Book Award for poetry, the P. K. Page Founder's Award for Poetry and a National Magazine Gold Award. Shane is the poetry editor for Arc, Canada’s national poetry magazine.