AIDS Snow Family, and Gender Continuum

by CA Conrad


--for anyone who loved someone who died of AIDS

In January gather snow, this is intimate this calling to honor the shock of being alive. I made one tiny snowman named CAConrad, and one tiny snowman named Tommy Schneider. For six months they held hands in the privacy of my freezer while I visited the streets and buildings in the Philadelphia of our Love. Snow crystals travel miles out of clouds into the light of our city. My snowman read to his snowman the letters I brought home to the freezer. It's 2010, AIDS is different in this century you didn't live to see. The used bookshop where you worked on South Street is now a clothing store. Our first kiss in the Poetry Section is a rack of blue jeans and I resist hooking my thumbs in the belt loops to pull you in -- I FEEL you everywhere today.

In March an old friend was visiting and she said, "But you wrote poems for Tommy after he died." I said, "But it's sublime retracing our love in this exercise." She shook her head, "No, it's sad, it's very sad. Can't you see this beautiful day?" OF COURSE I see the beautiful day, in fact I SEE IT MORE THAN EVER, and I don't need her choreography to enter it. The point of experiencing love is to engage the greater openings. It's important to ignore the directives of others when investigating the way these doors swing on their hinges. Months of spring into summer, my snowman told your snowman the memories. One night you had asked if I was upset at something. I said, "I have no right to complain, all the men are dying in our city and I don't have AIDS!" You said, "Well I have no right to complain because I have a wonderful boyfriend who loves me and I DO have AIDS!"

Macrobiotics, herbal infusions, massages, sensory deprivation tanks, reflexology, music by Soft Cell, music by Siouxsie and the Banshees, music by Cocteau Twins, music by Patti Smith. Of course we're all dying, you'll never kiss someone who isn't dying, I know that, which is why the fear of this is not allowed to stop me from missing you the way I want. The streets were filled with men in wheelchairs that year. We were kids in love while you vanished in the funnel with them. The day after Summer Solstice I took our snowmen out of the freezer. 90 degrees, we melted quicker than expected, even sooner than I could have imagined. I burned the letters, mixed their ash with our slush. And I read to the puddle a poem that came to me years ago in a dream soon after you died: he wrote "I have AIDS / and kissed this wall" / X marked the spot / I wrote "I'm not afraid" / and kissed him back / wherever he is. I took many notes during the life of our snowmen in the freezer until they vanished. Those notes became a poem.

Gender Continuum

--for Anne Waldman

Every morning for seven days I gave my friend Elizabeth Kirwin treatments of reflexology and massage, and she in turn gave me craniosacral treatments. Each morning while on the table I would fix my mind to meditate on seven possible genders for my body, intersex intersecting day to day. Starting with the female skeleton, hormones, glands, and genitalia.

Day seven was male, but days two through six were variations of our world. The aim of physical, political, and sociological outcomes were in constant flux days two through six. Margins were permitted to drop in meditation. Permission to drop margins is an exceptional space to offer yourself and others. The craniosacral therapy was straightening my spine, relaxing my muscles, and challenging my thoughts throughout the gender exploration. The craniosacral lifted my consciousness while in deliberate concentration on the sex of my body.

Each morning after our healing exchange I would take notes about my body, how it was shifting, mending, and of course on the meditation of gender. The notes took no specific course other than a personal demand to divulge all hidden words and needs breaking free through the experience. I am a woman today. I am a man tomorrow. I will be neither for days to come, or bits and parts of both. Blood and imagination flow were on the increase. And that increase is a prodigious flow tempering the spirit, today, tomorrow, again, again against a wall. Up the wall. Over the wall. Away from the wall. The world as it could be (or a collective version of it) is always trying to bend the air around itself to be heard. The risks of the day are holding themselves out to us, yet we all know too well that the power structure is far ahead of us, the ambush of the ages. My notes from this exercise were plucked and shaped into a poem.