Day One // Billy Clem

But, Doctor, I have a terrible gag reflex and can’t swallow so many pills or any at all much less twenty or more per day, so many shapes, the long horse pills and the tiny dots like cheap candies you’d lick from a white strip that looks like fly paper, and so many blues and reds of alarm that something went wrong just once and I didn’t know and everything has changed now that the good times are over I won’t find love for sure and I’ll have to live alone and die in a Hospice, god and government willing, after years—or is it months?—of tests to count viral loads, my whole life depending upon bright, pretty, manufactured poisons, rigorous, impossible diet and nutrition, tri-monthly and sooner-than-later monthly and finally daily blood draws, the goodwill of phlebotomists, nurses, and doctors, the openness of other guys at clubs or on-line who will be in short supply like my T-cells once they find out that my name is registered forever on the Illinois Safety List, when insurance and Medicaid applications go rejected time and again, when I can’t get or hold down a job and must beg friends, former lovers and hook-ups or even acquaintances to take me in and let me rest on their couches otherwise I’ll be forced to sell my ass or tired, sore mouth on the street for a moment’s shelter or just a small meal or a little weed to take the edge off when no one decent will speak to me, my family less than before—if that’s even possible—or when strangers avert their wide-eyed faces in disgust from my plague-purple-blotchy skin and my thinness conjuring concentration camps or, charitably, I guess, week six, round four of chemo, the thrush disabling me from screaming it’s not my fault though no one will hear knowing what they don’t know from TV and cheap talk and failing ever to ask how or why, or, god forbid, do something about it before I’m just another case, another statistic, before I’ve fallen forever into public domain. 


Billy Clem teaches writing and literature outside Chicago. His work has appeared in Counterexample Poetics, Radical Teacher, Moon City Review, and Elder Mountain.