1996 Man of the Year

By Maria Masington

AIDS patients from rural Kenya
to San Francisco were
phoenixed from the plague by
Dr. Ho’s drug combination.
TIME magazine picked him,
champion of the near dead.

You were chosen to be in the trials,
the newest in a long line of meds,
but you could no longer eat
and the seizures had begun.

One Saturday you gathered us
and asked permission to stop fighting.
We shut off the oxygen, circled the bed,
and layered our voices one over the other,
“Go toward the light Jeffrey, go toward the light.”

I wish we’d been braver, more trusting,
but our backbones were crumbling as we watched
you stumble with your cross, again and again.
If only we had known this was not snake oil,
but the gift of ‘the Lazarus effect.’

Had we owned a crystal ball,
we’d have knelt by your bed and begged,
“Ignore the light Jeffrey, ignore the light!
You start the cocktail Monday.”