Three Poems from stories of lives affected by HIV



An aged and twisted figure

barbed body

acute angles

where flesh thinly veils bone


Her walking, slow and tortured

unstable steps won’t carry her far

and if she stumbles will she break

and shatter on the floor?


And days pass to weeks

and flesh does not despair

as faith and hope and love abound

and see her defy the gaping ground


she will not be dust

in desert air

but life and blood

and fat through care


and when the call comes

to bring her home

she’ll offer her dance

and not leave alone



HIV un-holy trinity


You wandered in, talked of life,

before creeping up on unexpected hosts

infected husband, daughter, wife,

and left a trail of mounting ghosts

whose innocence was not discussed

as you traded lives, with chosen sons,

who bartered, begged, and reasoned

‘til the cities fell at your behest

and bodies became just dust and sand

lying in the desert ground.


A Story of Family


Blood infection not life negation

she quakes with coughs

that won’t determine

whether she hopes or fears today

waking and sleeping

not slipping away


Blood infection not life negation

a widow made by an indiscretion

another’s name

known or forgotten

she gave a gift that left a family broken


Blood infection not life negation

as gathered bodies give affirmation

while telling stories, braiding hair

women mixing, coffee with care


Blood infection not life negation

The Determination of the Rejected

Strange to write a poem inspired by Karl Barth – but this was. It drew on his reflections of the anointing of Jesus which so disturbed the disciples.



Who are the some that gather here

to question the ointment, and the tears,

of she who kneels at dusty feet

and prepares a bed of spices sweet,


yet soured by the salt of grief?

They bring neither freedom or relief

from death who stands with waiting word

as doubt deems plausible the absurd.


Death, the harbinger of decay,

awaits the whisper. Words betray

the secret fears of the devout

which rise amidst the violent shouts. 

An Un-medicated Calm

On Tuesday 11th October I visited a wonderful man who is dying. As he slept in his hospital bed he was accompanied by his wife and daughter. I witnessed the tenderness of that moment and wrote this on reflection:

An Un-medicated Calm

Here age is remembered as cancer creeps, 
it’s dark pervasion touching nerve, soul, heart 
stripping life like flesh from bone. 

This picture is disturbed, 
the serenity questioned 
by the dark encroachment of pain. 

A sedative haze holds him 
occasionally his bindings tested 
by the struggle within that will not simply abate. 

To this body, this frail self, 
a touch, a daughter’s touch, 
carries an un-medicated calm. 

The gentle motion of tenderness 
the to and fro of a long familiarity 
summons a quiet memory not yet lost to the night. 

This shadow sleep is not alone 
as daughter calms, and wife looks on 
with tears that bathe her love 

for one last time?