Morning & Test Trials: Two Poems by Joy Gaines-Friedler


8/8/90: “Not to worry!!! I want to get better. I don’t want to suffer anguish, anxiety and mental pain anymore. I can’t live like this. Sometimes I just wish God would take me in my sleep. I feel close to death. I hope I’m wrong and while (will) continue to fight but I can (can’t) do this alone. I’ll write about the Dr. tomorrow.”
—From the journal of James Kerr

A flower

The color of dawn

In the shade of a hosta leaf

A sigh

A minor chord


In the first bit of glow

When the edge of

Pine trees take shape

A renewal

A faith in light

The hosta

Gold against its own shade

Like a friend

Or lover

Like a word

Such as, thinking

And you.

—Joy Gaines-Friedler

Test Trials

9/19/89: “Heard on TV tonight: Q is very promising & kills HIV in test tube but warns Not For Human Trial. Well I’ll try it. It is a logical thing to do, and studies on humans have been performed…”
—From the journal of James Kerr

What if the word deficiency had no need
to coexist with auto and immune. Or, you
had been born five years later and the cocktail
caught up to you. Maybe

we would be mocking The Emmys, choosing color
swatches for wall paint, laughing about that time a bee
flew into your car, we nearly lost our minds, finally
one of us, was it you? opened the door. We looked at
each other and laughed a full five minutes.

There are 745,000 results
for AIDS CURE in a Google search—and not one of them

Now I’m looking at the blinking cursor, feel
the words curse and cure in those perfectly straight
vertical heartbeats—right here you would give yourself
away and say, never straight, only forward.

“A flatline is an electrical time sequence measurement
that shows no activity.”

I wonder how God measures time.

They say there are
parallel universes
where the thinking of a Thing makes it so. What if

I think you smoking a Tareyton, a cup of coffee, notice
that slight tremor in your hand. Now I’m thinking: you
never met that man, didn’t make that date, had a flat tire,
changed your mind.

—Joy Gaines Friedler

Joy Gaines-Friedler teaches Advanced Poetry and Creative Writing for non-profits in the Detroit area, including the Prison Creative Arts Project. Her many poetry awards include the Litchfield Review Poetry Series Award for a series of poems based on the journal of her best friend Jim, who died from AIDS in 1990. A Pushcart nominee, Joy is the author of three full-length poetry collections. Visit her website at:

First appeared in the January 2009 issue.