After My Friend Reads Us “Why I Hate Gristedes,” Which Is Really an HIV-Coming Out Poem

I realize my reasons for hating Gristedes are chump change

compared to my friend Graham’s, since he happened to get

the call in a Gristedes in the city. What I’m trying to say

is that when Graham read that poem in our Thursday night

workshop, we were forced to see him as maybe not so peaceful,

upbeat, or willfully obscure as our teacher had branded

him. What I mean, I guess, is nothing about his poem

that night was willfully obscure, although I desperately wanted

it to be his friend’s point of view and Graham just the other guy

sitting on the opposite end of the couch watching The Sopranos

and wishing his friend hadn’t gotten the call at Gristedes. But the air

circulating in the few empty spaces left in that West Village studio

told us that this was his poem, his virus, his moment, which we all

had to get over in 5, 4, 3, 2 . . . “What is working best in this poem?”

And there we clung to line and syntax like some kind of white sheet

dangling from a burning window that we’d all climb down and give

the thumbs up when our feet hit the ground, while our friend

screamed inside, licked by flames.

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