Not someone that I knew
Walter Holland

but the first.
Handsome, exposed on
a bed, adjoined to tubes.
Sent alone
to attend
with yellow gown and gloves
with paper mask and
cloth covered shoes
I stood before him
knowing his illness
was lethal.

And so I was prepared,
but not for beauty, more fearful to touch
something desired
than something
that could make you die—
his toxic body threaded in plastic
lines streaked with blood.
So in a moment's gaze,
I stared at what was hardly scarred
or ruined, that showed no signs
of visible corruption. Sent to move his limbs,
to keep intact
what little
and life remained.
Silence around me
as though I were
on some outpost of the moon,
encased in glass; the hum of ventilation
overhead, that drew out the alien air.
No, I wasn't prepared,
for his face, lying there
tender, asleep, as though we were
lovers—all monitors and screens,
so much isolation as to protect us both
from the hurried
gaze of an unaccepting world.

It's then I knew there could be no certain protection,
no amount of distance, no barrier to keep me safe,
for more dangerous

was Eros
as it struck my heart, so lethal and direct
that I could not protect myself
from that
incurable infection—

And so I
moved his limbs through what he might have known
in some former past, performing that futile dance,
a dance I knew
was more for death
than life.

So told that it could be caught from a single breath,
a touch, a bead of sweat,
his skin so mortally dangerous as such,
I touched his brow and lip
embarrassed that desire could come so easily from this,
ashamed of that loss of his perfection
as nature seemed inured to
swift destruction

and so I left
(the room emptied, cleaned the very next day)
my gown and glove and trust in love I