Meet the Judges:
Samiya Bashir: A former communications director for the African-American AIDS Organization The Balm in Gilead, Bashir is an award-winning author who recently published a new collection of poems entitled Where the Apple Falls. (Redbone Press)
Tom Spanbauer: HIV positive novelist Spanbauer received raves for his books The Man Who Fell in Love With The Moon (1991) and the AIDS themed In The City of Shy Hunters (2001) . His latest novel, Now is the Hour (Houghton Mifflin), a coming of age story about a farm boy in Idaho, will be out next spring.
Ernesto Quinonez: Quinonez is an old friend of POZ, which published his fiction. In 1999, the Village Voice named him a Writer on the Verge. His 2000 novel, Bodega Dreams, was a Barnes and Nobles Discover Great New Writers title. His latest novel, Chango's Fire, was published by Rayo/ Harper last winter.
Rape Potion No.9
by David Hancock
(First Place, Hot Type Literary Contest, Fiction, Prize: $500)
This is the night you get AIDS, you think. This is it.
Itdoesn’t seem to matter too much. It will be a relief, won’t it? All thepanic of your twenties, thirties, forties—sweating out the tests,fretting over every bruise and swollen gland—you can’t seem to spark itup. You are physically exhausted from the war. The passion-sappingnegotiations, “I’ll do this, but I won’t do that.” Inventing yourselfas a condom top when you want it, too, a big hard cock shooting warmcum up your ass. You fought the good fight, but now you can lay it alldown in surrender.
Haven’t you been chasing it, really, in yourusual muddled way? Lowering your standards through the years as thequarry gets harder to bag. Less discerning as you realize that the magic you’ve been waiting for isn’t going to happen. Cranking yourtired libido with depravity. What does it matter? It’s just going to beyou: old, older, oldest. It all goes flushing down the pipes tonight.That thing swirling in the bowl? That’s you, newly 50 and loathsome, nofool like an old fool, finally attaining the fatal fuckup.
You’re awriter; describe the scene from the start. Capture every detail, you’llwant to punish yourself with this memory. Your eyes open. You’relying on a bed. Did you pass out? You look at an etched-glass fixtureon the ceiling. You feel nauseous and strangely inert. A moldy airconditioner rattles in the corner, muffling the traffic noise fromEighth Avenue. It’s your hotel room. The nylon comforter under youfeels scratchy. There’s the little TV sitting on the shabby browndresser. The little round table and two chairs, with the open quart ofJack Daniels and the hotel glasses and Coke cans.
Downstage left isthe costar of this seedy passion play: the Puerto Rican hustler siftingthrough your duffel bag. He’s a fine piece of rough trade; that waswhat you wanted, wasn’t it? Buzzed hair and brown skin, tattoos andmuscles; his shirt is off and his pants are open; his half-hard cockdangles out.
Seeing the cock perks you up. You have sucked thatcock. Ah, the delicious moment when your lips open for a big hard cock.It’s a moment of joy, yes it is. Look at your little boy now, Daddy.But even in this guilty rapture, you can’t let go. There are rules,there are always rules.
Safer-sex tips for oral: If you tasteprecum, back off. Squeeze the base of the cock and milk the precum out.Wipe it off the cock slit with your hand. Then suck some more. Don’tlet him cum in your mouth; shield your eyes when the young ones shoot.
Thehustler rummages through your pants, finds the wallet. There goes thecash, and your credit card. You try to protest but only moan. He comesover to the bed and looks down on you. He has crude tattoos on hisupper chest and shoulders, like a child’s doodles. This one is allBronx: homely, when you get past the beefcake. He’d had a nice smile inthe bar, that notorious Times Square bar. He let you feel his cockunder the table while you chatted; nice fat cock.
The hustler leansover and dribbles down a line of spit. It splashes in your left eye andruns down the side of your face. He takes his cock in hand and batsyour face, making fun of himself hard. He puts one knee on the bed andmounts your mouth, face fucks you contemptuously. You try to cooperatebut receive the thrusts passively. He goes too deep, and you gag.Stomach acid burns your throat. He pulls out and stalks over to thetable.
Something has made the hustler angry. He fixes himself a Jackand Coke. He fishes a small pipe from his jacket and loads it. Is itcrack, crystal meth? Watching the hustler smoke makes you think of yourown modest debauchery. This is your birthday present to yourself, asleazy weekend in Manhattan. Get drunk, smoke some joints. See theStreetcar revival with that TV actress you like. Fondle some go-goboys. Jerk off in a video booth. “Play” in the big city; be a “naughtyboy.” The juvenile vocabulary of the aimless gay male.
The hustler puts the pipe down and stares. He’s high.
Safersex and drugs: Don’t do drugs if they make you lose control. Don’tdrink too much if you can’t handle it. Don’t lose control. Keep the bigpicture in view. Your health is worth more than one peak experience.
Yourthoughts clear a bit. You remember bringing the hustler to your room,past the disapproving guard in the lobby. He fixed drinks at the littletable. He insisted on that, like a straight guy who needs alcoholbefore he’ll let a faggot touch him. Hot!
You remember now. Youset your empty glass on the table and slide over to kneel before thehustler. Nuzzling his crotch, unbuttoning him, taking it out. Time forthe poppers, in one nostril, the other. Your blood vessels expand; yourskin feels warm and tingly. A nice big cock, getting hard and fatin your mouth. Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me. You feelrebellious pride in yourself, acting so scandalous and horny at yourage. You’re alive, not like all those sleepwalking married guys. Theballs, you want to suck the balls. You pull the jeans past his ass anddown to his knees.
Then you see them. The lymph nodes, twin paths of stepping stones running along the hustler’s inner thighs.
Commoncocksucker practice: Suck any dick you want as long as the owner lookshealthy. The minute you confirm he’s positive, shun him like a leper.
That’swhat made the hustler mad. Being rejected by a disgusting old queen.Perfectly understandable. But how did you end up in this bed, so limp?How did you end up here? That’s a good one.
You moan and the hustlerrouses. He comes to the foot of the bed and lifts your legs, jerkingyour body toward him. Your sad little penis hangs upside down as hepositions himself for the fuck.
Safer-sex tips for anal: Be the topin one-night stands and anonymous scenes. Wear a condom. Don’t getfucked by strangers. When you do get fucked, make him wear a condom.Condoms break. Even with the condom, make him agree to pull out beforehe comes. If he won’t agree, don’t let him fuck you. If he agrees butyou don’t believe him, don’t let him fuck you. Don’t get fucked bystrangers.
The hustler’s dick is soft; he can’t get it in. With anangry snort he drops your legs and goes over to his coat. When he comesback, he has a knife in his hand. Random thoughts on safer sex.Remember, even with all your precautions, it’s still a numbers game.Don’t stay too long, don’t sink too low. Don’t get trapped in the hunt….
Withthe point of his knife, the hustler begins scratching designs on yourchest and stomach. His face has a look of concentration like a childtaking a spelling test.
With a druggy smile, the hustler draws theknife along his own abdomen, catching drops of red on the edge of theblade. Then the knife drops out of sight. The blood! Not the blood.
Notevery gay is your brother. Being gay warps some people, makes themself-centered and dangerous. Understand them; protect yourself….
Thehustler is hard. You feel his cock slide in as if from far away and insomeone else’s ass. He smiles at you, such white teeth, as he pumps hiships lasciviously. Look at me, Papi. He hoists one of your ankles onhis shoulder as he pushes in deeper. With the knife in his right hand,he continues his drawing game. My blood, your blood.
Don’t let sexbecome the main thing. Believe in love, be worthy of it. Don’t becomesolitary, nurture friendships. Keep looking for your purpose. Don’t letthe animal rule the human in you. Maintain balance. In all thingsmoderation. Be accountable for your actions….
The hustler drops theknife and takes your other ankle upon his shoulder. He pumps faster.Your stomach fat jiggles. He spits on you again. Blood or sweat istrickling down your side onto the comforter. They might charge you ifit’s stained.
Your panic ebbs as the hustler nears climax. Yourthoughts come to you dull and distant: This is the night, you think. This is it.
It doesn’t seem to matter too much.
Love yourself. Respect yourself. Don’t give in to despair. Don’t give up hope.
David Hancock, 46, is a longtime journalist who now works for CBS news in New York City.
Shopping With Alice
By Richard Ferri
(Second Place, Hot Type Literary Contest, Fiction, Prize: $250)
Dan was standing at the end of the canned-vegetable aisle at thesupermarket in Provincetown. It was a hot summer morning, and everyonewas at the beach or still sleeping off last night’s transgressions. Danpicked up a can of lima beans and began to read the label. He closelyexamined the picture of the lima beans on the label. He started to cry.
Standingin the nearly empty store, Dan could not help but feel foolish, but hecould not stop crying. He had just turned 25, was a mass of solidmuscle, had a great job, and yet lima beans were making him bawl like ababy.
“Excuse me,” a small firm voice said, “but did those lima beans do something to you?”
Embarrassed, Dan turned to see a small slender white-haired woman in her seventies staring at him over her grocery cart.
“’Causeif they did I can talk to the store manager for you. Can’t have limabeans bringing a grown man like you to tears, can we?”
Dan almost attempted a smile. “No, that would send the universe off-kilter.”
“That is what I think, too.” The woman stuck out her hand. Dan took it. “I’m Alice.”
“Dan,” he replied as he gently shook her hand.
“Good, now that is over. Put those damn lima beans in my cart and help me finish shopping.”
Danplaced the can in Alice’s cart and followed her. “Now, I am going toget some peanut butter. Does peanut butter make you cry, too?”
Dan managed a smile this time and wiped his face. “I’ll be brave.”
“Good man,” Alice clipped back as she steered her cart up another aisle. “Let’s soldier on.”
Danfollowed Alice since he could think of no reason not to. She was aboutfive-foot-six and very thin. Her shock of white hair was cropped neatlyaround her face. Dan could tell she was an old-time Cape Codder who hadweathered many a storm. Seeing a man crying in the canned-vegetableaisle did not throw her off balance at all.
Dan felt the need to explain. “I suppose you’re wondering what that was all about.”
Aliceshrugged her shoulders as she picked up a jar of superchunk. “Notreally. I’m a total stranger. You don’t owe me any explanation.”
Dan leaned closer to Alice. “Aren’t you at least curious?”
“Curious?Sure. I’m as curious as a room full of gay Republicans in awhorehouse.” Going past the peanut butter, Alice stopped in front ofthe pickle section. “Here’s a little life lesson for you, Dan. Neverbuy generic pickles. Those fuckers are limp and tasteless.”
“Point noted. No generic pickles.” Dan’s voice trembled, “You see, Alice, I’m gay.”
Alicejust looked up into Dan’s eyes with her no-nonsense face and said,“Well, so am I. Guess we won’t have to worry about any Harold and Maudething happening.”
Dan tried not to look surprised and Alice caught him.
“Even gay people age. You will age. Those muscles and perfect tan will both fade.”
Alice tossed some milk, cheese and chicken into her cart.
Dan’smouth went very dry, but he decided he needed to tell someone. Anyone.“You see, Alice….” Dan paused as Alice examined some fillets. “I got mytest results about an hour ago. I’m positive.”
Alice slowly shifted her head and looked at him. “So you go to a grocery store and cry over a can of lima beans?”
Dan just shrugged. “I didn’t know what else to do,” he said softly.
“OK, so now I have to ask: Why lima beans?”
“Honestly,I was just walking around in a daze, and when I saw them, they remindedme of damaged blood cells. You know how they’re kind of poufy and havea funny shape.”
“You think lima beans look like damaged blood cells?”
Dan just looked at her. “Is that all you’re going to talk about—lima beans? I just told you I tested positive!”
Atired-looking mother passed by, failing at keeping her child fromgrabbing packages of straws from the shelves and flinging one intoAlice’s cart.
“Guess I needed straws,” Alice mumbled.
Dan’s face was becoming red. “Lima beans and straws!” He was nearly yelling now. “What about me?”
Alicelooked up at Dan’s twisted face. “You will be fine. A man who testspositive then cries over a can of lima beans will get it together. WhenI tested positive, I got drunk. Drank a whole bottle of brandy.”
Alice continued to shop. Dan stood still.
“But Alice, how in the world can you be positive? You’re...” his voiced trailed off.
Alice finished the sentence for him. “I am old and a lesbian.”
“Look, Alice, I am sorry. My mind is just so damn fucked up right now.”
“Letme give it to you in a nutshell. I had a girlfriend for 30 years. AfterMary died, I went into hibernation for five years. One day I toldmyself I had to snap out of it. So I started to go to the social eventsat the senior center. I met this man and he seemed nice enough. Verypleasant. He asked me out to dinner. Well, I had never dated a manbefore, but I figured what the hell. A new adventure, right? One thingled to another and we ended up in bed. I got infected. He left town.End of story.” Alice paused. “You know what really still pisses meabout it? The sex was terrible.”
Dan let out a small laugh. “Yeah, the guy who I think infected me wasn’t that great in the sack, either.”
Alice did not miss a beat. “Yeah, but I bet you went to bed with strangers for a lousy gin and tonic.”
“Never!” Dan protested. “I only drink scotch.”
“Who knew I was speaking to such a class act?”
“Well, another life lesson. Go with quality and not quantity.”
“I never imagined that I would learn so much grocery shopping with a stranger.”
Dangrabbed the other end of the cart. “But how do you cope, Alice? I keepthinking of the things I have to do. People I have to tell. Decisions Ihave to make. I have this jumble of thoughts ricocheting in my head.”
“Itwill calm down. I know exactly what you’re talking about. It isoverwhelming. But trust me on this: In a few weeks, you will bethinking a lot more clearly. The only thing you have to do now isnothing. Don’t tell anyone. Don’t make any treatment decisions. Don’tbecome a rodeo clown. Just let it all calm down.”
“Look,Dan. In any of life’s rough situations there are basically threechoices. First, is to deal with it. The second is to avoid it, and thethird is to slash your wrists. I just don’t see you as a guy whobelieves in denial or someone fond of leaving this planet before yourscheduled departure. So the only thing left is for you to cope.”
Danlooked at Alice and could feel a little relief creep into his head.This made sense. He found out he tested HIV positive less than twohours ago. Then he cried over a can of vegetables and met Alice. Thingswere already looking better.
“So what do I do now?”
Alice smiled. “Help me home with my groceries.”
Theypaid for the groceries and headed out to Alice’s car. Alice drove tothe end of Miller Hill Road. Her house was the last one on the shortstreet and it abutted the woods. It was small but solid. Just likeAlice.
She pulled her car around to the back of the house and theygot out. Dan carried the groceries and placed them down in Alice’ssunporch as Alice began looking for something in a closet. She pulledout a gun.
“Can you shoot a BB gun? Alice asked.
“Of course. I was a Boy Scout.”
“Good.”Alice fished in one of the grocery bags and found what she was lookingfor. She marched out to her backyard fence and placed the can of limabeans on a post.
“OK,” Alice shouted. “Shoot the damn beans!”
Dantook aim and with remarkable precision hit the can dead center fourtimes. He put down the gun and smiled as Alice came walking up to him.
“So how do you feel?”
“Well, it’s the same thing with HIV. Got to take aim and fight.”
Alice and Dan went inside, opened a bottle of wine and started to make lunch.
HIV positive writer Richard Ferri is 49. His novel Confessions of a Male Nurse (Haworth) is out in September.
by Jack Lynch
(First Place, Poetry, Prize $350)
Current medications: (start date, pill amount, times per day and dosage count)
I begin to list every drug since the early days.
azt, ddi, ddc
Let them guess which ones I'm on now.
cytovene for cmv, sulfasalazine
I reall'y can't recall
kaletra, oxandrin, fuzeon
Whether winter took my root to bones
Before this current upward viral spring
videx, vioxx, prednisone
Or after a summer's failed attempts
To stem a spiraling T-cell fall.
wellbutrin, viread, adderal
Give me a blanket and a milk shake made of lead
and let me wait,
in a cold room, in a paper dress,
on a cold steel bed.
Glide me, motionless through a noisy cage.
levaquin, neupogen, agenerase
Stillness still comes effortlessly,
but times, dates, numbers...
t-20, d4t, 3tc
Jack Lynch is a 42-year old HIV positive New Yorker. He is pursuing a Bachelor's of Fine Arts at the New School University
Picking up AIDS Results From a Clinic in Spanish Harlem
By Nikki Moustaki
(Second Place, Hot Type Literary Contest, Poetry, Prize: $150)
At Hong Fat two days ago I split a fortune cookie whose fortune read: Think Positive.
Today: a smashed tomato on the sidewalk outside my building. My throat aches.
Three blocks from the subway to the stone-gray clinic, I’m wrapped in scarves,
though narcissi already hang bright faces over the city’s sidewalks,
tulips breaking their own heads on the sun.
A sparrow has another sparrow down on the pavement and swallowed
at the neck, sharp beak pinching the life out of the other—
A territorial dispute? Procreation isn’t this unfriendly.
Three young men cluster by the display window of a bodega.
In the window: Lazarus on crutches, St. Francis pursued by a little white terrier,
Jesus cut, crossed, bleeding. Thirsty. I step inside to buy water and the guys’ heads
don’t even swivel.
A woman tries to lift her child: He’s only two, look how fat he is. He eats and eats.
The neighbor lady gives him pork rinds and pudding. He don’t fit in the stroller no more.
She hands him an uncooked hot dog. Her teeth are brown-golden and pointed,
skin taut to her cheeks. They leave with me, we walk the block up Lexington
together to the clinic where the boy, she tells me, will get his injections.
I don’t follow her inside.
An old man across the street leans on a street lamp, singing to himself.
Or maybe he’s singing to the city. Or to me. The spring light on the clinic cuts
the building’s stone into silver flakes and dust. I’ll have black beans and rice after this,
I’ll walk the hundred blocks home. I’ll be good to everyone, even myself.
Love more, touch less.
The toddler pilots the tall stairs, damp-faced, sucking a new hot dog.
The guy across the street isn’t singing, he’s praying. I will listen and be stone.
I tighten my scarves. The child smiles up at me and stabs out his chubby fist.
I can make my own prayer, for him, for me. Emily Dickinson says split the lark
to find the music. I say split the sparrow and find the question.
Split the child, find the man. The boy has eight fingers, like me. Two thumbs.
We both have blood, we both have answers; I’ll leave this spring stoop, regardless.
Nikki Moustaki, 34, is a published poet and freelance writer living in New York City.
Just in time for summer vacation, POZ presents the winners of our Hot Type! literary contest. But brace yourselves: These brutally honest and short stories are a potent reminder that HIV is not day at the beach.
Meet the Judges: