What can the dancer say,
moving with his arms that way,
and with those legs and hips, that we,
in our dumb bodies, say with tongue and lips?

He says that in the movement of my being,
this breath, this life, “I am.” —And no one,
even he who soon might take me,
may be the dance I am.

Bruce Fentham died of AIDS in 1993. He was a dancer in Melbourne. Near death and unable to walk, his last performance was as the hood ornament of the car that led the 1993 Fringe Festival parade. See The Age 25 October 1992 (page 7), and 8 September 1993 (page 15).
This poem was published by the HIV Here and Now Project and at The Body on 27 November 2016.

Advice to myself

Teachers, in their classroom mode,
Will point the way down any road.
Before you go, remember this:
That getting lost is half the bliss.
—But take a compass and a map,
The way ahead is full of traps;
And pack some warm and woolly socks,
The future is an oblong box.


I pray to speak as musicians
  pray; those whom I trust, more than writers,
    since they may speak without need to tell.
      With this desire, without end of longing
    for that sound to fill me, I am contrite,
  and offer my imperfect contrition
to the hope I shall not end in Hell. 

O God, whose music made me,
  I beg you, do not leave me soundless
    where I am, believing nothing, and my mouth
      numb with lies. I am in pain.
    Say only—to this silent, shapeless
  form of life I have, you might give remedy.
With that uncertain knife I could untie my tongue.

[Ask as if to extract admission]

Ask, as if to extract admission,
or hoping to discover I am empty,

What do you believe?

and I say, “There is nothing
to be claimed today not wrong tomorrow”.

I laugh my loud, ungraceful laugh,
rub two words together, making light

for a blind and slippery god who, for all
I know, may also lose his way…

“My god is the worm
whose kingdom comes to everyone.”

[When he is leaving]

When he is leaving and opens his arms around me
I know there is one place I will be small and human,
Breakable, weak, most unlike my other self.

Lips should be the most telling part. Kissing the rough,
imperfect surfaces to speak another language,
I learn how smart a silence is. And also, how

love will turn my head off like a light,
leave me stupid, thick and clouded honey.
It’s just as well I’m dumb with love—

If I thought of danger or of pain, calculated futures
or the interest gained, I would be alone.

[Mostly there is just this]

Mostly there is just this
emptiness, being

ignorant of truths
that might make us happy.

Dreams peopled by strangers
I’ve become familiar with,

tonight, the stranger is a lover
rejecting me and accepting me.

“I’m afraid of you,” he says
as we begin the slow rock.

“And I am afraid of you.”

The king of hate

Years the beast spends
dining on his own flesh,
inexhaustible passions
coming from who knows where
beyond the breach.
My arms outstretched
find a way through
glowing darkness back
to where the hate began
a life of forgetting,
bandaged head, a mask.
Come in. Come in.
He says, this dark house
is larger than love,
your heart unwired
will warm to knowledge
of superb pain,
will grow to fill
its infinite rooms.
He crowns me king
of beasts, winds me
in red fields and war,
promises all the void
will sing my name;
if only I would stay.