World AIDS Day: A poem from a series, “Mothering AIDS”

Mothering AIDS: Snippets from my encounters and conversations with mothers who stood by the suffering of their sons in the complexities of AIDS in the first twenty years of my priesthood. I wrote this poem recently as the first in a series. 

 At the screen door

We meet at the dirty screen door

Her face in shadow

Her fragile hand reaches for the loose doorknob from the inside

She seems taller because I stand a step down on the front porch

Sweat dripping down my back from the summer sun and

Nerves because another mother

Invites me over the threshold to sit aside a son’s deathbed


Still desiring the best for him

The priest’s last call

The pills exhausted and the chemo done

The oil is on the thumb of the man who

Opens the door to heaven within her heart at least


From her whispering invitation I slowly

Creep the narrow bedroom path amid silent machines

Strangers in this quiet room creating more fear than remedy

I open up my prayers and my heart in the darkened space

His empty eyes look through me


I sing a lullaby of faith

My heart resting in his

Connecting his silence and his song of unspoken truth

Feeling the eternal shore wash up against his bed


I touch him

Laying my hand on his forehead bearing open sores

With oil and prayer deeper than the silence

Blessing him in his fear that I will condemn him

More distracting than the pain beating against his breath

His worry that no holy man would touch his truth

The real man


His mother and I give him away and birth him again

We amble back to the threshold

She tells me I am the only person to touch her dying son

She rests those grateful words and her face on my chest

Then pushes open the worn out screen door

Toward the warm light


Click here: LEARN MORE about World AIDS Day


5 thoughts on “World AIDS Day: A poem from a series, “Mothering AIDS”

  1. What a beautiful, touching poem. It brings back memories of my involvement with AIDs community health programs in the mid to late 80s in Riverside County, California, and in the 90s the death from AIDS of a favorite pastor. Thank you for sharing.


  2. Ron, thank you for writing and sharing this beautiful poem. I love it that many people are responding to your poetry; this is as is should be since it is infused with the love of Jesus.

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