All I Know to Do: Poetry by Christopher Hewitt

All I Know to Do

Now even the numbers
have no meaning for me
metaphors like stars
snuff out  Oh I care
but I repeat myself
the chanting  the banners
the riotous passions
of the war against the ones
who look the other way

My friend dies
inch by inch
beneath the skin
His forehead tightens
skull shield
the first sign
He works still
has friends
eats less
takes the necessary
shrugs off
side effects
says he’s fine

On days off
he helps the kids
with AIDS
die as safely
as they can
and seeing his own death
in them
he mourns himself
I know
but I do not pry
do not infringe
I will probably outlive him
Damn the disease

I hold him so tightly
as if holding him
could cure him
as if one hug
could fend off
the attack
It’s all I know to do
I smell his cologne
on my beard
the scent of wild gardenia
of dogwood in evening
his essence
his sweet silence
his manhood’s tender courage
that I love so
that I love so

—Christopher Hewitt

A native of Worcestershire, Christopher Hewitt emigrated from England to the United States in 1974. He received an undergraduate degree from University of Birmingham in England in 1971 and went on to earn master’s degrees in English and Creative Writing from UC Davis and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop at University of Iowa. Over the course of his career as a writer, he published poems and translations in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, The Advocate, The James White Review, and BENT, among others. His work has been anthologized in Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men Tell Their Stories. At the time of his death, he was working on a memoir titled Brittle Bones, in part about living with osteogenesis imperfecta. He taught writing at University of San Francisco, Fordham University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, among others. Hewitt helped inaugurate A&U’s premiere issue in 1991 and filled several editorial posts at the magazine, including Literary Editor, until his death in 2004 at the age of fty-eight.

The poem originally appeared in our October/November 1993 issue. It is reprinted in our anthology, Art and Understanding: Literature from the First Twenty Years of A&U (Black Lawrence Press), coedited by Diane Goettel and Chael Needle.