At the Blood Center the woman says you’re barred from donating blood.
Asked why, she answers you responded ye s on question 34.
But you wore a condom that time you say. MSMs (men who have sex
with men) are 44 times more likely, she says, to be infected
with HIV/AIDS, but can’t say from when or where this number comes.
You ask why women who sleep with MSMs are barred for 12 months,
but not for life. It’s irrelevant to your situation, she says. You
wonder why your sex life is a situation. You get up to leave.
On your way out, a mid-forties queen, swishy and wearing
eyeliner, is talking loudly on the phone about his boyfriend
who’s been tricking on the side. You stop to ask him how
and how often he donates blood, but the phlebotomist points you
to the door and says again, thank you for your honesty.
Ask to hear the story again the one
You know already how the composer
When he passed at last left only sketches
Of the third act how the hired pen who
Completed the opera overwrote it
At first with notes from his own oeuvre how
Toscanini still cut the final score
Down three further minutes and yes I know
You ask for the story because only
Its sound can forestall my melancholy
My ominous grasp of what is coming
The operatic forgetting of time
No longer mine now the story is yours
Administer its morphine dream
To the coming queens who like me
You numinously usher
To their long-gone loves
When the last legend I ever loved
Knew he was going blind
He said he’d give me his right eye
So at least that little bit of him
Would live to find a cure
And I told him it would
Be an immense help if he could
Give me his left as well
From the hospital morgue
I collect his nameless eyes
With other eyes I look at his
And tell his tale again
She enters your room in the ICU as though
A starlet stepping down through and into
Other dimensions she tells you there
Could be lesions on your optic nerves and
That’s why the whole scene is blurring
Like an old Hollywood dissolve lean in
She says listen to this composer’s
History you feel it’s mostly true even if
Intercut with details of an unknown opera
Critic she once knew but what you hear
Is her operatic resolve your deteriorating
Vision she says could be some unknown
Condition you wonder how many
Other queens get this
Kind of celebrity treatment.
Scott Chalupa writes to live in an attic near the margins of Columbia, SC, where he is pursuing an MFA at the University of South Carolina. A Houston, TX native, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Fall Lines - a literary convergence, Oxford Comma Review, HIV Here & Now, and other venues. He has led workshops for Houston Poetry Fest, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the Houston Public Libraries’ SpeakOUT! Series for LGBT writers.