Parachute

By Tim Dlugos 1950–1990 Tim Dlugos
The Bergman image of a game
of chess with Death,
though not in a dreamscape
black-and-white as melancholy
films clanking with symbols,
but in a garden in Provence
with goldfish in the fountain
and enormous palms whose topmost
fronds cut into the eternal
blue of sky above the Roman
ruins and the dusty streets
where any door may lead to life’s
most perfect meal: that is what
I think of when I remember
I have AIDS. But when
I think of how AIDS kills
my friends, especially
the ones whose paths
through life have least
prepared them to resist
the monster, I think of
an insatiable and prowling beast
with razor teeth and a persistent
stink that sticks to every
living branch of flower
its rank fur brushes
as it stalks its prey.
I think of that disgusting
animal eating my beautiful friends,
innocent as baby deer. Dwight:
so delicate and vain, his spindly
arms and legs pinned down with needles,
pain of tubes and needles, his narrow
chest inflated by machine, his mind
lost in the seven-minute gap
between the respirator’s failure
and the time the nurses noticed
something wrong. I wrapped
my limbs around that fragile body
for the first time seven years
ago, in a cheap hotel by the piers,
where every bit of his extravagant
wardrobe—snakeskin boots, skin-tight
pedal pushers in a leopard print,
aviator’s scarves, and an electric-
green capacious leather jacket—
lay wrapped in a corner of
his room in a yellow parachute.
It's hard enough to find a parachute
in New York City, I remember thinking,
but finding one the right shade
of canary is the accomplishment
of the sort of citizen with whom
I wish to populate my life.
Dwight the dancer, Dwight the fashion
illustrator and the fashion plate,
Dwight the child, the borderline
transvestite, Dwight the frightened,
infuriating me because an anti-AZT
diatribe by some eccentric
in a rag convinced him not to take
the pills with which he might
still be alive, Dwight
on the runway, Dwight on the phone
suggesting we could still have sex
if we wore “raincoats,” Dwight
screwing a girl from Massapequa
in the ladies’ room at Danceteria
(he wore more makeup and had better
jewelry than she did), Dwight planning
the trip to London or Berlin where he
would be discovered and his life
transformed. Dwight erased,
evicted from his own young body.
Dwight dead. At Bellevue, I wrapped
my arms around his second skin
of gauze and scars and tubing,
brushed my hand against
his plats, and said goodbye.
I hope I’m not the one
who loosed the devouring animal
that massacred you, gentle boy.
You didn’t have a clue
to how you might stave off
the beast. I feel so confident
most days that I can stay
alive, survive and thrive
with AIDS. But when I see
Dwight smile and hear his fey
delighted voice inside my head,
I know AIDS is no chess game
but a hunt, and there is no
way of escaping the bloody
horror of the kill, no way
to bail out, no bright
parachute beside my bed.

Tim Dlugos, "Parachute" from A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos. Copyright © 2011 by Tim Dlugos.  Reprinted by permission of Nightboat Books.

Source: A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos (Nightboat Books, 2011)

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Poet Tim Dlugos 1950–1990

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Death, Health & Illness, Sorrow & Grieving, The Body, Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Tim  Dlugos

Biography

Poet Tim Dlugos was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and grew up in Arlington, Virginia. From 1968 to 1970, he was a Christian Brother at LaSalle College in Philadelphia. He left LaSalle and moved to Washington, DC, where he participated in the Mass Transit poetry readings. In the late 1970s, he moved to New York City and was active in the Lower East Side literary scene, where he was a contributing editor to Christopher Street . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Health & Illness, Sorrow & Grieving, The Body, Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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