Passing By: Poetry by Keiko Lane

Passing By

“It is not just that we are not what we were,
rather it is we are not.”
—W. Wayne Karr

I’m racing up the marble steps at dusk because I’m a few minutes late,
meeting Brian for coffee. He is laughing a bit, still shaking his head,

astonished, when I bend to kiss him hello. A man he hasn’t seen
in months has just said to him “I thought you were dead.”

We sit outside in the plaza, watching strangers. I tell him
that last week a friend said I remind him of Wade, maybe the turn

of my head or the reach and cup of my hand hugging him hello,
he wasn’t sure except that I can only remember Wade sick and Brian

looks at me like he has forgotten Wade is dead so I lace my fingers
across his hand, pull open his palm, and rest my cheek there. I say I think

it was ’93, same summer as Steven, and he says Steven died in ’94.
Though it is summer in Los Angeles, the sky breaks open and rain begins to fall.

We watch as strangers around us walk faster on their way
to a film or dinner or the record store. Puddles on the marble steps turn slippery

in the sudden rain as we move to stand under an awning, holding hands.
We watch water breaking the skin of water,

the surfaces of each of us exactly that fragile.
We walk with careful steps. We hear the rain on our skin.

—Keiko Lane


A queer and AIDS activist for twenty-five years, Keiko Lane lives in Berkeley, California, where she maintains a private psychotherapy practice and teaches graduate and post-graduate psychology and cultural studies. In addition to her literary writing which has been published in journals and anthologies including Calyx, Americas Review, Here Come the Brides, The Feminist Porn Book, and Queering Sexual Violence, she writes essays about the intersections of queer culture, oppression resistance, and liberation psychology.