After recently seeing the now award-winning film “The Dallas Buyers Club” (with kudos to Matthew McConaughey for his best actor Oscar and to Jared Leto for his best supporting actor Oscar), it brought back memories of the years in the 1980s when the disease AIDS first emerged. So much at that time was unknown about this frightening and then terminal illness that it was not only the general public who was mystified, the medical establishment was also in the dark. News stories about the one drug, AZT, that seemed to ward off the disease for a time anyway, depicted the horrendous side effects that this medication inflicted on people who needed it. There was also talk about how the U.S. FDA was too slow in releasing the results of the clinical trials for other AIDS medications. This hampered terribly the availability of other approved medications in reaching the AIDS patients. Much of this that went on back then is depicted in the real-life story of Texan Ron Woodroof that the film “The Dallas Buyers Club” is about.
Moving ahead to present time I wanted to feature, in honor of Women’s History Month, the poetry of the American woman poet, novelist and memoirist writer, May Sarton (1912-1995). Contained with a collection of Ms. Sarton’s poetry I found this poem entitled “AIDS” written in the late 1980s.
AIDS, a poem by May Sarton
We are stretched to meet a new dimension
Of love, a more demanding range
Where despair and hope must intertwine.
How grow to meet it? Intention
Here can neither move nor change
The raw truth. Death is on the line.
It comes to separate and estrange
Lover from lover in some reckless design.
Where do we go from here?
Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear
Our world has never been more stark
Or more in peril.
It is very lonely now in the dark.
Lonely and sterile.
And yet in the simple turn of a head
Mercy lives. I heard it when someone said
“I must go now to a dying friend.
Every night at nine I tuck him into bed,
And give him a shot of morphine,” And added, “I go where I have never been.”
I saw he meant into a new discipline
He had not imagined before, and a new grace.
Every day now we meet face to face.
Every day now devotion is the test.
Through the long hours, the hard, caring nights
We are forging a new union. We are blest.
As closed hands open to each other
Closed lives open to strange tenderness.
We are learning the hard way how to mother.
Who says it is easy? But we have the power.
I watch the faces deepen all around me.
It is the time of change, the saving hour.
The word is not fear, the word we live,
But an old word suddenly made new,
As we learn it again, as we bring it alive:
Love. Love. Love. Love.