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. www.julenetrippweaver.com