SAN FRANCISCO, October 10, 1984 – The city’s Public Health Department Director today ordered 14 bathhouses and sex clubs catering to homosexuals to close immediately, saying they were “fostering disease and death” by allowing indiscriminate sexual contacts that could spread AIDS.
I whisper the closing of Cauldron,
a locker key blue bungeed, tight,
cutting blood to my bare arm.
Every night, unzipped pull to unlit
baths, a gurney in the street, red
-blue spin of siren, repeating.
Weather Girls wailing, It’s raining
men, hallelujah. By 1984 –
I forgot how to feel. Every night,
I slipped a pin in a different finger,
tasting 10 perfect beads of blood
so I could exhale. I stopped
screwing, though risk made me hard.
Each time I slipped a finger
in another man – I opened,
hovering over that long song
loop, his spine. Wave of nausea,
black-out, slippery buckshot
and we believed CDC bullshit –
that no one could be trusted.
The night before the Cauldron closed,
I stepped out in the alley to blow
satin skin, through smoke. Rocking
trashcans clashed with fear of schwip,
switch-blade and suck. I considered it
practice, for when the sex clubs closed.
Driven into unlit streets, we all got used
to shooting under stars. Big,
beautiful voices sang in my head,
The street’s the place to go. ‘Cause tonight
for the first time, just about half-past ten…
for the first time in history,
It’s gonna start raining men.
I fucked in countless numbers,
blades of park grass. For the first
and only time in history – I bottomed,
tripping acid, saw a muscle man
running into an open eye,
his pupils face-up, pinpoints.
God, eating young cock for breakfast.
I was living with my mother. Only she
reminded me, “Not everyone who dies
is a beautiful boy, amen.” A box of straight
pins in her sewing room. Sticking pins
in fingers, I repeat lists to shuffle faces
and music out of my head. Bedazzled
bead pins, T-dance pins, bridal lace pins,
patchwork sex pins, quilting the dead pins,
pearlized necklace pins, tidy hide-it pins,
and how ironic, these are all straight pins.
In the end, absolutely soaking wet.
In the end, uninfected, pretending,
under every sort of light, mouth-pit
air and skin lesions are supposed to appear
black. Decades in waiting rooms, sitting
under fluorescent, a broken chair, a chant –
It’s raining men, every specimen drawn
from my body, every six months by a needle,
not a pin, decades bled, protecting my tall,
blonde, dark and lean. A single room,
throbbing vein, tied off rubber rope.
Robert Carr is the author of Amaranth, a chapbook published in 2016 by Indolent Books, and a 2017 Pushcart nominated poet. His poetry has appeared in Arts & Understanding Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, Kettle Blue Review, Radius Literary Magazine, Pretty Owl Poetry, and other publications. He lives with his husband Stephen in Malden, Massachusetts, and serves as an associate poetry editor for Indolent Books. He also serves as Deputy Director for the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Poetry, book reviews, and upcoming events can be found at robertcarr.org.