Sky Gilbert in the poems collected in Digressions of a Naked Party Girl (ECW, 1998) lays out in many a poem exemplary safe sex practices: semen spread over bodies, condom use supplemented by retraction. But nothing captures the ethos of the times as much as the final poem “The Island of Lost Tears” which rings the changes on the themes of contagion, quarantine and the solidarity of community.
It begins with reportage.
Haven’t you heard the latest news about AIDS?
You can get it from tears
You mustn’t let anyone cry on you or
cry near you, in fact it’s a very good idea not to let
anyone cry in the same room as you
Of course the reader girl or boy is invited to sob after having reached the titular island.
No one dies there
in the Island of Lost Tears
they simply fade into the mist
But late at night through the trees
(they have none but weeping willows)
the voices whisper the forbidden words
“Weep … cry … feel … let yourself go!”
These are the ghosts of those who dared
to cry when all others had forgotten how, and they will
not be silent.
And so for day 1272