Ways of Explaining How My Friend Died of Aids

a poem by Merwin D. Brown

When people asked me how my best friend died, I became practiced at telling lies.

So much so that I almost believed them had I not been there with him during his final moments.

I said things like “cancer”, “kidney failure”, or “pneumonia”

Knowing deep down that it was all of these things and none of these things by themselves.

My best friend passed away due to aids related complications.

When it comes to this subject, why do we swallow the truth like bitter fruit that upsets stomachs?

Why do we relegate it to whispers as if this is come clandestine conversation not worthy of common ears?

Why do we simply fall silent?

This disease is anything, but silent. 

It was screaming to be heard in every part of his body. 

They say that denial is not just a river in Egypt.

For my friend, the Nile was also a river flowing through his blood, filled with alligators that fed on him from the inside out.

I’ll never forget the day when he called me and told me that he had become death personified. 

That he was Pandora’s box and that anyone who opened him from this point on would inherit all of the evil of the world. 

His fear was not silent.

His voice trembled as if it was Hiroshima after the bomb hit, rocking him to his very core and the fallout spread across his entire being. 

We dress tragedies in bejeweled falsehoods to make them more acceptable.

We keep dirty houses, sweeping our bones under rugs and piling them in closets just so we look more presentable when someone from the outside looking in comes to visit. 

To not tell the truth of my friend’s death is to deny him reincarnation.

His life could be reborn as someone else’s lesson. 

Not talking about a thing does not make it go away any more than it makes it easier to digest.

Death by any other name still hurts the same for those that are left behind.

You want to know the difference between the prison system and AIDS?

In prison, black bodies rot inside of cells.

With Aids, cells rot inside of black bodies.

It is so easy to for us to wire money to put on someone’s books, but it’s so difficult to convince someone to book an appointment at a clinic. 

Whether our loved ones are truly guilty or not, we get t-shirts made with phrases like, “Free our boy.”

We don’t bother with innocence or guilt of someone infected. 

We just accept them as dead men walking. 

The walking dead.

Zombies that are steps away from death’s door. 

I get it now: This is a horror movie. 

That’s why the black boys always end up dying first. 

America Is Dying Slowly.

Africa Is Dying the Same. 

All Is Deathly Silent. 

All In Denial Still. 


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