I hesitated
when Greg in a whisper begged me
to hold him. Greg, forsaken
by lover and family to suffer alone
the last lash of AIDS, asked for arms
around him and I remember
his breath, tiny as a baby’s
on my face, when I lifted him
and squeezed death against my heart.

To cross a bridge in fog is to memorize fear
one step at a time, to believe in the danger
of life and water and the eternal
nothingness of one wrong turn.
To die in combat can be noble,
to die old among your children, beautiful.
But to die knowing those you love fear for their lives
leaves you only the clipboard care of masked strangers
in hospital white touching you with rubber gloves.

I left Greg early, my “appointment” a lie
I could live with as I rushed away
to the men’s room for the scalding water
and stinging hand soap on my face.
In 231 a man who was my friend
would not see another summer,
would never know that I scrubbed my skin
raw, erasing all of him that I could,
my face red as shame in the fogging mirror.