Words Really Matter!

Susan's picture

There are days when I really wonder why it is so hard to educate people about HIV. This is 2019, and there should be no stigma, and we should not be so well acquainted with heart breaking truths like the way that racism, poverty, and stigma kills, the way that comprehensive sex education would save so many lives, yet we're not allowed to provide schools with condoms, and we, the experts, the people who embody MIPA, we are still not always at the tables where major decisions are made! This made me ponder whether we are not creative enough as we engage the public. Are we? I am inspired by the way so many of my sisters write, like Stacy Jennings, and Shyronn Jones, and Claire Gasamagera, and so many more! When I become contemplative, I mull over the possible ways we all survive, and it has to be the different ways in which we all take to writing as though we have a whole world of people living with HIV to save, and lift up, and encourage! We write to save our own lives some days!

As a writer I have studied sestinas, poems that are made up of six stanzas, and each stanza has six lines. These sestinas end with a tercet, and those three lines tie everything together, and the fun, really creative part of all of this is that you have to let your eyes embrace all the words that show up in each stanza that either rhyme or are used over and over again as a way to present a theme! One recent week I lost my cell phone, had to get my brakes fixed, and my car needed an engine mount to pass inspection, and it was a week with no paycheck in sight. I don't live near any of my sisters in PWN-Pennsylvania, so I get into my own head, often convince myself that solutions don't exist for small and large problems. We all know that solutions do exist, and that whole situation I just mentioned did work out, but we can be own worst enemies. When I go through those days, I often write, and on that particular day I wrote, "We Who Embody MIPA". It is that poem, a sestina that I share with you, and this creativity, this way to be innovative with words, is healing, and empowering for me. I thank all of you who have inspired me. I hope these words empower you!

We Who Embody MIPA

One day she asked why her stigma
Was not holy like the stigmata or the rosary
Just because I teach about Plan B
Doesn't mean I deserve less dignity than you
Or anyone who pretends that abstinence is sound
. . . comprehensive sex education won't steer you wrong

There is no shame in HIV, you're wrong

If you think that, and HIV Is Not A Crime, that's no enigma
Yet, Kerry Thomas is still in jail, doesn't that confound?
It's like the justice system is structured to pillory
And incarcerate black men and the LGBTQ community says, true
That . . . , we just celebrated the anniversary of Stonewall and folk still don't see

That social justice teaches us all to be
Aware of intersectionality and stay strong
As we speak up for LGBTQ youth
And do more to dismantle racism and march in D.C. because PACHA
Is no more and health care is a human right for you and me
So we'll stay bound

Together, for solidarity
Helps us learn from each other, so we'll astound
Because no plea
Will suffice, we'll demand that ARVs become available across the globe, and a throng
Of experts, people who embody MIPA
Articulating truth will be bold in a beautiful milieu

Of justice, and human rights, using people first language as we attend interviews
And reiterate U=U, and expound
On the trifecta, that is racism, poverty, and stigma, it
Kills, and we get loud and the tears come because you and me,
We've lost best friends, and lovers, and intrepid pioneers in this fight and a song
Doesn't bring them back, even if sung by Mariah Carey

So one day, twenty some years later, holding her rosary,
She was still not through
Asking about dignity, or our sacred worth, and she said, "We aren't people who belong
In the margins," and, "We won't be turned around,"
There remains truth to tell, "See,
Untruths won't cure AIDS." We know working to eradicate stigma

Together will be the way we see mounds
Of courage growing and what is true will be taught simply,
Patiently, because we've known all along, we've got this, we embody MIPA!

Susan Mull, 8/2019

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