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It was a mystical Monday morning
In the middle of the month of May

As I entered my doctor’s office
He closed the door, sat me down
Looked me dead in the eye & told me
I only had 57 t-cells.

57 t-cells.
57 t-cells.
57 t-cells.

I wanted to scream
I started to cry
I held back the tears
I still don’t know why.

While he continued talking
I continued drifting
My mind was now a
Terrible thing to waste
Racing, racing, spinning, spinning
Flooded w/ so many disparate thoughts, feelings & images
So many disparate thoughts, feelings & images...

I began to remember the pain
Pain is a memory.
I began to remember the pain
Pain is a memory.

I remembered


The grief
The loss
The anger
The fear
The confusion
The shame
The guilt
The despair
The hopelessness
The depression
The sadness
The progression
The terror
The denial


The image of a man
A man that I loved
A man that I loved
A man that I loved.

But my father
Our neighbors
This society
Your religion said

It was       wrong to love
It was       not right to love
It was       not Black to love
It was       white to love
It was       a shame to love
It was       a sin to love
It was       ungodly to love
It was       no win to love
It was       dangerous to love
It was       disgusting to love
It was       illegal to love
It was       immoral to love
It was       a waste of love
It was       no place to love
A man
If you were a man.

But this was my man
Motherfucker, my man!
My man, motherfucker, my man!

A Black man
A beautiful Black man
A good Black man
A proud Black man
A decent Black man
A bright Black man
A generous Black man
An emaciated Black man

Hooked up to the IV
Fucked up TV
Lousy food
Nosy nurses
Paper nightgowns
Ass on display
Multiple injections
Opportunistic infections
Leary & weary of my
Genocidal theories.

Try AZT                                       raise the dosage
Try DDI                                        raise the dosage
Try one more pill                   raise the dosage
Try SSD                                      can you lift five pounds?

Demonized & pathologized by anti-black folks in the media
Ostracized & terrorized by anti-homosexual folks in the hood

Six months to live
Three weeks to live
One day at a time
He is still God’s child.

Saw him staring
Saw him staring
Saw him staring out the window
Searching &
Searching &
Searching &
Searching for

A Black man
A dishonest Black man
A selfish Black man
A willful Black man
An angry Black man
A desperate Black man
A frightened Black man
An irresponsible Black man

Who abandoned his son
At the age of four
Created a void
By closing the door.

That his son filled with more
More hurt, more pain
More guilt, more shame
No sunshine, just rain.

Losing his innocence
Next went his common sense
Never learned to trust
Trapped by greed & lust.

Longing for affection
Chasing his erection
Escaping all his demons
With a crack-cocaine obsession.

               As my father
               In the physical world forsakes me
               Then my father
               In the spiritual world lifts me up…

The news had me devastated
Death seemed a moment away
Yet I was determined to persevere
My faith in God became clear.

Daily prayers for His will to be done
Prepared me for the unknown
Despite my newfound terrifying reality
With Him I was never alone.

57 t-cells is not a death sentence
I didn’t do anything wrong
I felt the spirit of Bob Marley
Singing sweet redemption songs.

You see, I, too
Know why the caged bird sings
To co-create with God
Is such a beautiful thing.

Max Robinson, Willie Smith

Arthur Ashe and Eazy-E
Were brilliant and successful pioneers
Whose premature deaths left us powerful legacies.

So how did the face of AIDS suddenly switch
From a gay, white male to a down low myth?
If we truly were scared about contracting the virus
We’d listen to Audre Lorde who said stop being silent.

From Harlem to Haiti and Baltimore to Brazil
Being my brother’s keeper requires more than a pill
A holistic approach can restore us to sanity
Cultural affirmation is essential to our humanity.

Nourishing the temple with organic and vegetarian food
Fosters balance and harmony and lightens one’s mood
Employing regular exercise and prayer and meditation 
Shifts depression and loneliness into peace and liberation.

Language is inadequate to raise the viral load
A warm and loving hug can reach a wounded soul
The truth will piss you off before it sets you free
God’s will for us includes living with dignity.

It’s beautiful and courageous to express vulnerability
To care and share with kindness and sensitivity
When we clean our dirty laundry and expose the real dirt
Perhaps we’ll get honest and admit how much we hurt.

My south side Chicago neighborhood
Was accountable when I was a child
The elders were genuinely invested
In making this little boy smile.

Although I resisted their efforts
To always treat me right
Today I pray for humility
I want other people to see the light.

Critical thinking can help us survive
This global pandemic destroying our lives
Self-love and respect for Black people is key
We must unite now to prevent illness in our community!

Copyright © 2015 by Mark J. Tuggle

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