I got to be honest about this
I been guilty
I ignored it so long
my body
these consequences
the whole thing.
In my room the candles keep me warm
& the saints keep watch from their wooden box as I take another man
& toss the rags to the floor.
After when my head clears.

Y’know I did try once really I did.
Back home. I did ask for it. To prevent it all but here we are.
My doctor she had to look it up. The medicine.
Didn’t know it by name. Hadn’t ever had anyone like me come asking about it.
You know she says
This drug
I think it’s more for people who are
how should I say this
at higher risk for exposure
as in going out having multiple partners pretty frequently unprotected y’know that kind’a thing.
She looked at me & I lied to her again just by not saying nothing at all. We can test you get you started on it she said
But y’know you have to follow up every 3 months & I don’t know anyone to refer you to up in NYC.
I said no that’s ok thanks for the info.

I know she was just doing her job
I mean just asking the questions
but the way it came out had me feeling
unclean all over again
like I did back in gradeschool
Jaime O’s house playing dress-up on her swings when my ma just about ripped her skirt clean off’a me.
I could lie but I really don’t remember the color.

Back in New York.
It was the beginning’a the new semester, the weather turning.
Figured it was just another sinus infection
but when I went to the doctor couldn’t nobody figure it out.
I’d only just moved up outta Tennessee to the city
& it was bout to be my 2nd year teaching uptown at the poor man’s Harvard.
I still had questions about it all—PrEP the medication etc.
& now seemed about as good’a time as any.

Around the corner’a my place in Brooklyn there’s the health department.
They screen you first to be sure.
I let them take my blood.
They told me very simply that same day.
You’re positive they said
Did you know?
I said I didn’t.

Counselor they hooked me up with said
Probably picked it up a while ago
& that time you got sick was just your body’s first immune system shock.
Have you had many partners in the past 6 months he asked.
I said yes.
Do you know how many he asked.
I said no.
I was never any more or less careful than I thought I oughta be.
Took my partners at their word
or truthfully just didn’t care too much
either way.
When I try to trace it back I honestly couldn’t say for sure who it was or wasn’t or when it was or wasn’t.
One day it just found me.
That’s all.

& so it happened.

by Constantine Jones