These experiences are all woven together in her new book Brokedown Palace, which we talked about on #SholemsBias. Among other things, she read the poem below (first published here).
My realm is a jumble of mazes and labyrinths
illusions, riddles, mysteries. It’s fun
to solve a mystery, when you
live amongst the gods. Immortal, dealing out
mortality, night after night. A summer evening in
New York City. A basement apartment. A young man
barely out of his teens. Sitting on a wet bed
beside his dad. His breath smells funny.
Like bread. His face is finely sculpted, as if all the fat
has been burned away in a terrible fire.
It’s a look I will later come to associate
with gay men. He’s pale, with purple blotches
like pomegranate seeds, on his face and arms.
So weak he can’t walk. He doesn’t know what’s wrong
with him. No one knows what’s wrong with him.
But I do. Buried in one of my medical magazines
was an article on Kaposi’s Sarcoma. A previously rare
and benign cancer of elderly Italians. Now showing up
in an apparently mutant form in young gay men.
On the west coast, doctors are calling it GRID.
Gay Related Immune Deficiency. Very rare.
452 cases in the whole United States. 453 now.
I wish I remember being afraid, or even
feeling sad for this man, to be so sick so young.
But I was besotted by my own powers. Proud
to have made this impressive diagnosis. Not yet able to see
that Mount Olympus was scaled long ago
Our palaces sacked, our gorges flooded
with germs and sorrow. And I am not Demeter but
Persephone, damned by the mortal pain
I so carelessly consume.