Zoe Leonard at the Whitney

Zoe Leonard mends oranges for her friends
underground, who drink the nectar of the dead,
who haze the newbies and crack up routinely
about their shriveled assholes.

We brunch for the end of AIDS, giggling
our mimosas. It’s cute to care in our jumpsuits,
measuring the walls so the art hangs straight,
so someone with clout will unclench
fistfuls of tax deductions.

Under the memorial Walt Whitman talks
in circles on the ground. An artist can be a nurse
and a nurse a poet. I want to lay magnolia petals here
where each hospital bed lay, now a park where
svelte men stretch on towels, one leg
draped over the other’s, mouth-to-mouth, living.
I want to pick a magnolia and eat it like ice cream.

—Shari Caplan


Shari Caplan (she/her) is the siren behind Advice from a Siren (Dancing Girl Press). Her poems have swum into Gulf Coast, Painted Bride Quarterly, Angime, Drunk Monkeys, and elsewhere. Shari’s work has earned her a scholarship to The Home School, a fellowship to The Vermont Studio Center, nominations for a Bettering American Poetry Award, and a Pushcart Prize. She works on the Development team of AIDS Action, where those living with HIV can access holistic services and where Getting to Zero is a top priority.