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One War or Another

Julene Tripp Weaver


I've Lived Through One War

I’ve had my share of the I’m dying lament

I’ll not go there with this new pandemic

I lived through one war, AIDS. Worked

and lived through death up-close—

people take risks—bug-chasers fucked

to get HIV—that old story. Citizens

throw Corona parties to get sick, build

immunity, they make decisions irrespective

of rules or science—meet with a friend,

walk in a park—conscientious, I will

shelter in place within reason, unafraid.

My body strong despite a retrovirus

I’ve learned to live with thirty years.

No known reason why I survived. People

criticize those who exercise free will, speak

with judgement from fear, become vigilante

citizens, fight with store clerks who request

they wear a mask. In the Philippines they shoot

offenders of shelter in place. We must ask

new questions, find unconventional answers,

remember our history, listen to those who

survived stigma and shame. It’s time

for massive change before we proceed.

Our planet, slow now with clear skies.

What They Mean When They Say Worried Well

When I learned my status, therapy

seemed a good plan. One appointment

and I knew he was not the right fit,

he told me I would have to stay where

I worked. What? And then he said

I was one of the worried well. What?

This didn’t fit my vision, it was

presumptive, a lie. What the fuck

was worried well? I looked it up.

Now with Covid-19 I hear

this phrase again on the news

for those not sick but anxious.

This broad stroke category wipes

away feelings, it tidies and organizes,

You’re fine, one of the worried well.

In fact, you might cause trouble, take

too many tests, use supplies others

need. Back then HIV meant death,

the phrase confused me, was I well?

I didn’t know. A retrovirus inhabited me.

I’ve learned everyone lives on a spectrum

of health and neuroticism. Two contradictory

words together, too easy an erasure, they

negate, give you back the problem—

your worry—if you weren’t so worried

you’d be fine. Well, I’m fine, less anxious

about this new virus than most around me—

I survived a deadly disease thirty plus years—

became a therapist, and will not label those

who shake with their worry. Death is a well

we fall into, and worry is a prophylaxis

like a placebo—it can help us grow strong,

take precautions, find answers. I found my way

in the maze—friends and chosen family died.

My web broke each new death. We must sit

and listen to each other. Hold gentle our brothers

and sisters, ask what they need, how they

plan to get where they’re going, despite illness

and fear. Find channels to soothe. Breath.

Words. Writing through the nervous system

onto the page. Send anxiety into the earth.

Move on the continuum—sickness to

wellness—find the mindful present, feel

the body in toes and feet, seek calm.

I never returned to that therapist. It was 1990,

I got a Masters, moved to my next job,

and the next, opened a private practice.

My retrovirus and I are well, not worried.

Daily Caution During a Pandemic

Do we go to the store for pasta,

the one and only item we need,

or not? What is the chance

of catching Covid-19?

How many in my local market

are carriers, am I protecting them,

or me? Aware of every sniffle,

sneeze, cough, the breath of my

lover in my face when we go to

bed, I turn away push my back

up against him. He is my pandemic

pal, lucky to have a body connection,

not alone. We work from home,

get along, this is not our first test,

not even the second in our long

history. May we continue to thrive.

Julene Tripp Weaver is a psychotherapist and writer in Seattle. Her book, truth be bold—Serenading Life & Death in the Age of AIDS, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and won the Bisexual Book Award.