Lines on my HIV Test: Poetry by Mike Zimmerman

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Lines on my HIV Test

“Glory and light of poets! now may that zeal
and love’s apprenticeship that I poured out
on your heroic verses serve me well!”
—Dante Alighieri

It’s not that I mind the sight of blood, needles, or gauze—
But I can’t pretend to read The New Yorker in this waiting room
Without feeling more nervous, lost, or already like a ghost.

Still, I have to sit, sweating as my thoughts race and roam:
I remember how the heat of the subway made me think of hell,
And, sitting now, I hear that hell and heal offer an almost-rhyme.

Here makes me think of hell too, hot and lonely. Then, like Virgil,
You finally call my name. I manage a small smile, then I follow
close behind. How many fellow sinners suffered this same vigil,

I wonder. Will you be my guide? Introduce me to some sinning fellows
On our way down the inferno? Can you tell me, why is it that what
we’re supposed to resist is also what makes life worth living? I allow

You to search my arm, but you offer no answers; the only one waits
Here in my veins. Truth requires a bit of blood, one way or the other,
But I never expected so much to be mine, at needlepoint, while my fate

Fills a vial. Would I like my results? Read those spinning tubes,
Doctor Virgil. Lead me down and show me what I’ve got to lose.

—Mike Zimmerman


A finalist for A&U’s 2016 Christopher Hewitt Award in Poetry, Mike Zimmerman is a writer of short stories and poetry, as well as a high school English teacher in the South Bronx. His previous work has been published in Wilde Magazine, Cutbank, and The Painted Bride. He is the 2015 recipient of the Oscar Wilde Award from Gival Press. He finds inspiration and ideas from the people and places he loves. Mike lives in New York City with his partner and their cat.