Showing posts with label AIDS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AIDS. Show all posts

Monday, May 19, 2014


On Sunday, I watched Dallas Buyers Club, an excellent movie released in 2013, but a film that was quite difficult to view. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto were outstanding in their roles. Loosely based on the real life story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), who was diagnosed with AIDS in the 1980s and given 30 days to live, the film won may awards, including an Academy Award for Jared Leto in his role as Rayon, a drug-addicted transsexual woman.

Ron is dissatisfied with his diagnosis and treatment in the hospital and, after reading and researching alternative treatments, he decides to treat himself and eventually others diagnosed with HIV and AIDS with advice and drugs from a doctor in Mexico, Dr Vass, who has lost his license to practice in the US. Ron's health and that of some of the others on the regimen improves, but, when the US Food and Drug Administration finds out about Ron's operation, they try to shut him down.

The Reagan administration is notorious for ignoring the growing epidemic and for its slowness in researching the causes and treatment of the disease and developing programs to educate the public. People who contracted the disease were sickening and dying in large numbers and were desperate and willing to try any treatment that might offer hope.  Reagan did not even mention HIV or AIDS until near the end of his second term.  What finally made me sit up and take serious notice was Randy Shilts' book, And the Band Played On.

Everyone involved in the production of the film treated the subject seriously and respectfully.  I highly recommend Dallas Buyers Club.

Monday, September 2, 2013


In David’s Eyes
 for my friend, always “the Broms”

He said wait, at least ten years, maybe more,
if you must tell it, let it age, mature.
And so I have, waited, humored his sure
conviction that time and context restore.

Secretary by day, writer by night,
athlete at university, turned down
by seminary, denied alb or gown
because, for him, lying was just not right.

At the end of our first week, sipping wine,
not that we liked it, concession to chic,
declared us allies, the suffering meek,
destined to outwit the front of the line.

I know you, all edges and sharps, trying
to make porcupines seem positively
cuddly – like it – the mask, deceptively
aloof -- won’t work with me. I do prying.

Kansas slow
, rippling wheat fields in his speech,
way of being, youngest of eight, like me,
confused by the view of society
that last meant spoiled, ruined, like some old peach.

Let me read his short stories, half the play
never finished, but not the novel, shy
about that, evasive until the why
was too clear to miss, a hospital stay.

No amount of prayer or therapy or
pledges of celibacy were enough
to fix or satisfy his father’s tough
Baptist will or mother’s RC ardor.

He simply couldn’t, with direct question,
say anything other than exactly
what he thought he knew, carefully, aptly,
but true, without guile or wise digression.

He knew what he couldn’t do, so tried not
to hate himself, but haunted by childhood
belief in authority, saw no good
in being fully himself, with sin fraught.

Immune system failing fast, the gay plague
new, frightening, friends disappearing, gone
in denial, fear, means of help withdrawn,
loss of job, insurance, excuses vague.

He did not want me to read of his one,
just one, failure to contain, defeat, hide
his fall, the reason he’d been cast aside
by family, church, not prodigal son.

Let me make the call to the one brother
who might understand, might help, when the first
bout of pneumonia scared us both, cursed
or not, family, surely … wrong answer.

It’s just you, my dear, dear Empress of the
Eternal Ephemera. They think death
is my just reward.
Coughed another breath,
closed his eyes, as if that would protect me.

Retreated into dark laughter, childish
games to pass the time when he was too weak
to write, chutes and ladders with the freak
former altar boy
, bruised, near the finish.

Portmanteau, his favorite word, better
than pedestrian baggage
, imagined
his story fine lingerie examined
by nuns at the thrift store, blushing chatter.

Tried to convince him to unpack, reduce
the weight, the volume, to just a valise
lightly carried, trust God’s wisdom, release
the burden of human error, abuse.

His answer, the burning of the pages
typed in pain, preserved in plastic binders
long stacked on brick and plank shelves, reminders
of hope fading with the AIDS, in stages.

Wept, when I brought an Episcopal priest
brave enough for communion with modern
leper, outcast, sinner, to his cavern
of private despair, in one touch, true feast.

Bathed him, still shyly insisting on swim
trunks for the immersion, demure, proper
but craving the gentle soaping, lather
and warm water defying all the grim.

Wrapped his emaciated six foot two
in blankets fresh from the dryer to warm
the perpetual shivering, the storm
within raging, winding down, but not through.

Made the call, after spreading his ashes
in the Charles, as requested, his mother,
“Oh, if only I had known ….”  A kinder
me would have comforted, spared the lashes,

“That’s what everyone says, to pretend,
soothe their own guilt, knowing full well the lie
of it, your shame in wanting him to die,
to stop being your lost, a wound opened.”

It was not kind, but it was my hand that
wrote his letter, begging, at last, for her
forgiveness, love, one final little stir
of maternal instinct, last words private.

There was no reply. Just a look exchanged.

In David’s eyes there was a knowing,
and I was honored by its showing.

Marthe G. Walsh

"In David's Eyes" by Marthe G. Walsh.  © 2012 Marthe G. Walsh.
Reprinted with permission of the author.

Marthe's two books of poetry, Among the Thorns and Heretic for a Loving God may be purchased at Lulu.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Elizabeth Taylor is so beautiful. I remember her in "National Velvet", which I saw when I was about 10 years old. Her beauty was nearly unbelievable to me. I wanted to look like her, even then. Elizabeth grew up gracefully, never passing through the awkward stage.

Then I remember "A Place in the Sun" with the marvelous Montgomery Clift, with whom Elizabeth remained dear friends as long as he lived. Indeed, she was in love with him, but, he was gay. Monty loved Elizabeth, too, but not the way she loved him. He did a damned fine job of acting the part of a man deeply in love in the film.

Elizabeth as Maggie the Cat in "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof" is one of my favorites of her roles. She maneuvers Brick (Paul Newman) and Big Daddy (Burl Ives), until she gets what she wants.

"That girl's got life in her, alright."

Words that Tennessee Williams put into the mouth of Big Daddy have a permanent place on my sidebar.

"There ain't nothin' more powerful than the odor of mendacity...You can smell it. It smells like death."

What an emotional workout it was when Grandpère and I went to see "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" We felt battered and bruised when we left the theater after watching Elizabeth and Richard Burton verbally duke it out for a couple of hours. The movie caused us to cringe a bit, because it hit home in that we both realized that a good many of our own quarrels were unnecessary and served no useful purpose, except to upset us and those around us. For me, as a result of seeing the movie, I was inspired to try to do better.

Though Elizabeth may have been a bit confused at times about the direction of her life, as we all are from time to time, she was as good as she was beautiful. Don't fail to read Leonardo's moving post at Eruptions At the Foot of the Volcano about Elizabeth's early advocacy in the cause of AIDS. She was amongst the first of the Hollywood celebrities to jump in and call attention to and demand help for those suffering from AIDS and HIV.

Eternal rest grant unto Elizabeth, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen.