NASEC 2005

Sam Friedman

We have grown old
over two decades
fighting hatred for life,
fighting virus with the needles
that show we care.
The young firebrands of the late '80s
grow paunches,
abandon day jobs or the streets
for careers,
and talk about the problems
of their teenage kids.
Dave and Walter age gracefully before me,
while I lose hair and gain wrinkles
that testify to I-don't-know-what.
Many have died, died from virus,
died from the loneliness and hatred
that a country driven by profits
in its war of all against all.
Others have died from shots gone wrong,
drugs that drag desire through the doorway to nil.

We have grown old, we survivors,
though still we rage
as prophets of never-gone by-gone ages.
Our memories hold images
of comrades
who passed,
and of moments of joy,
joy at needles taken,
needles returned,
lives transformed.
We have grown old, we old, cantankerous ones.
We have grown gardens
of lives saved,
gardens where lost ones still live in life-loving whispers.
These gardens bloom with our remembered battles,
with memories of disagreements that blossomed
as respect and admiration.
They bloom a communion aging
into old folks, new folks,
wise folks
who treasure each others' foibles
and quietly each help the other
in moments of fear,
in crises of methadone or drugs
in short supply,
through the tenterhooks
when venerable exes lust for their points
over months of sad grief.

With thanks to Walter Cavalieri for his suggestions
*Explanatory note: NASEC is the North American Syringe Exchange Convention.