54 Tons: An Elegy for Danny

Danny desert

The birds were delicate, their necks breaking in infinite upward propulsion toward the sun.

In the quietude of a morning my mind is a weed; a plant in the wrong place, invasive and aggressive.  I’ve been thinking about my uncle.

How delicately that quilt was stitched together, embroidered by unskilled hands, born of love and loss.

I was sitting at the dining table when they told me. My uncle had AIDS and was not long for this world. That was the last time I saw him before his death bed. A child, this was my first experience with loss—anger, despondency, impotency.

These weren’t plagiarized feelings. They were pure, unadulterated—the first time an emotion is felt, new and confusing. My uncle spent time with my sisters and me individually that day and the concept of time warped, became jealousy as the minutes slipped by and erased. I took to hiding in the woods behind our house, as if by escaping to nature, to the primal, feeling the dirt beneath my bare feet and the shady limbs of camouflaged evergreens it would, in some minute way, shield me from the ticking of the clock. My uncle parted through the flora and held me as I cried.

Part of me is, and always will be, that little girl embraced in the woods by her gapped-toothed and smiling uncle. In this way time is not linear. In this way time does not exist; I am here and I am there.

The AIDS quilt came to my middle school and I saw Danny’s panel, stitched among hundreds; a patchwork of loss. That quilt, in its entirety, now weighs 54 tons.

54 tons. No wonder it still weighs on me. And the load isn’t lightening. It grows and is growing, putting delicate birds with broken necks to bed.

the AIDS quilt


One comment

  1. Raymond Youngblood · · Reply

    That was nice, and I know what you went through.and still going through. Danny and I became close, In the short time. When he came to Idaho.

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