The Watch You Gave Me Still Ticks Its Hours


February is LGBT History Month — giving us the opportunity to explore our past, share our stories and remind ourselves of the common threads that tie us together.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is one of those threads. It was our Holocaust. It crippled our community as it killed hundreds of thousands of gay men with one foul swoop.

Looking back, we can now say: “We survived and we overcame.

But did we really? In a time when HIV drugs are more effective, making the disease no longer a death sentence, the devastating impact it had during those early days is far too easily forgotten by a more liberated and younger LGBT generation… often careless in their ignorance.

So, if we are painfully honest about the challenges we still face as an LGBT community (no matter where we find ourselves in the world), then HIV/AIDS have not left our beds. It still lingers between the sheets.

I found this poem in a comment thread of an article in which survivors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 80s and 90s reflect on their lives. It beautifully illustrates the heartache and sense of loss felt by so many, but also shows how we still live in the loitering shadow of this disease.

The Watch You Gave Me Still Ticks Its Hours

— by Martin Hatchuel, 6 July 1996 —

The watch you gave me still ticks its hours
though your hours here on earth are done;
The silent hand that sweeps its face
marks time for us no more.

Your time, my dear and deep beloved one
Is over now at last.

The life you had will live in us
whose love still bears your name;
The silent tomb that holds your cross
holds just your earth’s remains.

Your spirit, my dear and deep beloved one
Is ever now at rest.

I’ll celebrate your life, my love
And mourn its brief refrain;
I’ll celebrate our love that’s lost
And mourn, and mourn again.

The time you gave still lives in me
though time has robbed us both;
The finite hours that made our love
are counted now and done.

Your time, my dear and deep beloved one
In me burns ever on.

The smiles you gave still light my days
though laughter’s hollow comfort now;
Your life and memory live in me
though death’s crop is gathered home.

Your love, my dear and deep beloved one
In me burns ever on.

Images: FR Lubbe for Little Red Shoes
Text: Martin Hatchuel, 6 July 1996

Every Breath You Take

Mr Ostler is 87 years old. He smells of urine, antibiotics and muscle rub, and his pearly, watery eyes shake as they pace through the room. ‘He is alive’, is the most one can say about him.

Mr Ostler’s life moves like the slow hand on a clock; uneventful and mundane, but he believes that every precious moment left of his life, is a blessing from God.

Mr. Prokley is Mr Ostler’s carer. Mr. Prokley tends to Mr.Ostler best he can and keeps him company day in and day out.

Mr Prokley is 35 years old. He is a quiet man and a perfectionist with neatly combed hair. Mr Prokley is at Mr. Ostler’s bedside every morning when he wakes up and he leaves long after Mr. Ostler switched off his reading lamp. Mr Ostler’s life is Mr Prokley’s routine.

Not much is said between the two men. Mr Prokley knows what Mr Ostler needs and Mr Ostler knows how to demand it.

Mr Prokley, do you know what keeps me awake at night?” asks Mr Ostler one morning as Mr Prokley pours him his first cup of tea, “The things I have said to people.

Mr Prokley lifts Mr. Ostler from his pillows to change his sheets.

The room fills with regret.

Image ‘For A Moment’ FR Lubbe
Text: FR Lubbe, from the unpublished book ‘5’

Red Shoes, Red Shoes

Red shoes, red shoes
Fast as you can
Take me from gravestones
Make me divine.

Red shoes, red shoes,
Fast as you can
Break all these barriers
Save me from time.

Red shoes, red shoes,
Fast as you can
Fly me with angels, princes and gods.
Red shoes I beg you.
Red shoes of mine.

Text: Francois Lubbe
Image: Red Shoes – Francois Lubbe

All These Things


Small talk on street corners, polite smiles and friendly hallos, goodbyes and shining glances complete every day.

Fire in our bellies alight with the touch and tender skin of a loved one, embraces at stations as life ebbs and flows, in and out and the hope to perhaps meet again or at least not be forgotten.

Bare short moments when anything is possible and our flight soars with eagles, the private seconds of laughing at ourselves in mirrors with twinkling eyes, standing peacock and proud.

Fear of loneliness hidden craftfully, chameleon and shy from this crazy world that turns and turns without hesitation or doubt in a blazing stride towards an unknown future.

All these things, tiny wonders and elegant graces make us part and gives us place.

Image byFrancois Lubbe

Text:F.R. Lubbe

Silence After Beauty

Silence after beauty
and what remains
as Autumn composes
orange and amber,
you think,
as clouds drop
what they contain on
tar and velvet fields
in silence and beauty
before orange and amber.

Image ‘Spring’ by Francois Lubbe
Text: FR Lubbe, from the unpublished anthology ‘Poems from the Past’