[please hold] is a part of a larger body of work
forthcoming by Jones entitled “Ruins. In. Progress.”
All photographs are accredited to Constantine Jones & Francesco di Benedetto.
I got to be honest about this I been guilty I ignored it so long my body these consequences the whole thing. In my room the candles keep me warm & the saints keep watch from their wooden box as I take another man & toss the rags to the floor. After when my head clears.
Y’know I did try once really I did. Back home. I did ask for it. To prevent it all but here we are. My doctor she had to look it up. The medicine. Didn’t know it by name. Hadn’t ever had anyone like me come asking about it. You know she says This drug I think it’s more for people who are how should I say this at higher risk for exposure as in going out having multiple partners pretty frequently unprotected y’know that kind’a thing. She looked at me & I lied to her again just by not saying nothing at all. We can test you get you started on it she said But y’know you have to follow up every 3 months & I don’t know anyone to refer you to up in NYC. I said no that’s ok thanks for the info.
I know she was just doing her job I mean just asking the questions but the way it came out had me feeling Leviticus unclean all over again like I did back in gradeschool Jaime O’s house playing dress-up on her swings when my ma just about ripped her skirt clean off’a me. I could lie but I really don’t remember the color.
Back in New York. It was the beginning’a the new semester, the weather turning. Figured it was just another sinus infection but when I went to the doctor couldn’t nobody figure it out. I’d only just moved up outta Tennessee to the city & it was bout to be my 2nd year teaching uptown at the poor man’s Harvard. I still had questions about it all—PrEP the medication etc. & now seemed about as good’a time as any. Around the corner’a my place in Brooklyn there’s the health department. They screen you first to be sure. I let them take my blood. They told me very simply that same day. You’re positive they said Did you know? I said I didn’t. Counselor they hooked me up with said Probably picked it up a while ago & that time you got sick was just your body’s first immune system shock. Have you had many partners in the past 6 months he asked. I said yes. Do you know how many he asked. I said no. I was never any more or less careful than I thought I oughta be. Took my partners at their word or truthfully just didn’t care too much either way. When I try to trace it back I honestly couldn’t say for sure who it was or wasn’t or when it was or wasn’t. One day it just found me. That’s all.
& so it happened.
In the waiting room—
still too charbroiled about
to even do a poem;
on my corner—
bodies still volcanoing
up outta drains
popping all the manholes
I got a theory probably goes back’a while about people being cut in half at birth the gods scattering the fragments for fun. Now that she’s laid down I’m looking for my Yiayia in every old woman I meet seeing her in every old woman that looks me in the eyes these days. There are those who’d call this emotional dependency but I think that’s just a lack’a sensitivity to the world both seen & unseen so fuck that I’m not buying baby forget it.
Wasted almost a whole developing mind refusing information about HIV cause it could never happen to me it was other people’s sickness people from the past like it could never find me like it would never know my name & that goes back a long deep way but still I think it’s just too easy to blame one thing.
Now it’s a thumbtack dance I do around every new boy I meet who’s never heard the word undetectable used that way & I get to wondering is it my obligation now to tell you what nobody ever bothered to tell me not that I would’a listened even if they had. It’s like this:
Undetectable as in a cell count so small to where not even the best’a tests can find it in me even though they know it’s there as in the likelihood of a transmission from me to you is virtually none as in lemme put it this way:
I’m undetectable like small metal pieces in the sand with the groundskeeper sweeping the beach I’m undetectable like the ghosts & names & favorite fruits’a those who loved & lived & fought & died & were denied before me as in those who I am now a part of as in my brand new ancestors these other blemished & beautiful beads swallowed by that hungry & negligible fish named history these entire lives that were but also that could of kept being could’a been for longer than they were had circumstances been different in other words like them I am now undetectable I am moving through the halls at night & not a single floorboard comes to creaking I am drifting on the air I am spit & greasy hair I am the busted brick the buttons the iron railings the salvage warehouses the overpasses the chain link padlocks pried to pieces I am every lonely dyke & sequinless queen I am back seats streetlights telephone poles untreated illnesses foreclosed dwellings & yes it’s true I am also this poem in another some-odd years when nobody will say we were lost or we deserved it I am at a big table & sat around it are all the other lights they been waiting this whole time just for me & now that I’m here we’ll wait for you too in the gut’a this haunted house our history.
So I architect my own ruins. Draft up my disintegration. Still everybody is welcome.
Please do. Come in. Sit down. It’s warm there’s a fire. Don’t mind the men in the walls they’re just tending to the repairs. Y’know it’s always something in these old houses always something else to tend to something always threatening to come apart but please come in sit down there’s room it’s warm there’s a fire there’s room come in anyone is welcome sit down I see what you do to yourself what you do to yourself I do to me back come in it’s warm there’s room can it all can we all can it all please
is a queer Greek-American thing-maker raised in Tennessee & currently housed in Brooklyn. He teaches creative writing at the City College of New York, where he earned his MFA.