1981 - 2021
To commemorate World AIDS Day, we partnered with community Elder Femme, Stef Knight, who explores collective grief as a result of COVID-19 in comparison to the collective grief our communities experienced losing loved ones to AIDS.
No matter the way the wind blows,
they say you can smell death as it approaches.
Announcement or warning,
herald or harbinger,
it fills the air with its sacred scent.
How then do you smell it coming
if that sense has been lost.
The beloved lay alone, tended by strangers,
their loved ones unable to breathe
the same air as they do.
Final goodbyes are said on screens held by exhausted hands, but
how many times a day must they witness such private pain?
Another loss is added to the number that ticks
across the bottom of the tv screen, we are all
in our homes unable
to look away or
We must remember those lost
as more than numbers on a screen.
Ask us about loss, about how
to make some sense of senseless loss.
Image on left: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong Image on right: Gideon Mendel
Every year my people come together.
We pin a red ribbon of remembrance to our chests,
we light candles, our memories wrapped in quilts. We
call all of you who are gone, to bless us
with the presence of your glittering sin free souls. So
that we can celebrate
the mythical memoirs you left us.
We are united because you have gone, your
untimely passing has made us stronger, as
those who know what the loss of a whole generation can do.
Elders you have taken your stories with you,
our history is lost within your now silent lips.
We felt guilt for surviving, we tried
to join you, to hunt what took you
and make it part of ourselves,
to feel closer
to you once more.
Now that this is no death sentence for most,
I embrace the second chance I’ve been given.
But for a few short years, it could have been
yours too, that was not to be. So
I nuzzle the fear that has stalked us all,
but you will know it no more.
Rabid storm clouds lash the sky outside
a small square window in a plain white room.
I sob and the guttural movements in my throat
make our bodies dance one last time. You lay
lifeless in my arms, my tears run down your peacefilled face.
Your spirit enters me, then passes
to the other side, our final embrace together as you leave.
Through the small square window
a black and grey angel
cloud floats then disappears
to nothing. You are part of who I am,
in your memory I will make changes to
honour the short life
I will always remember you as you were,
the brightest star in the room, the
whitest light on the darkest night, a
twinkling planet in the memories of my sky.
- Stef Knight, 2021