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’

Coffee, right?


You might think it’s nothing.
Just a cup of coffee,
It’s not.
It’s more than that.

It’s not just beans,
dried and crushed
and purified
and ground
and perfectly brewed.
No, it’s more.

It becomes part of me
when I swallow it down.
It enters me
and stays inside,
Like the thoughts I have of you –
the ones I try to stop,
the ones I hide
because they hurt,
the ones that make me cry
and long for you.
The ones that’s bitter,
and no milk or sugar will ever mend.
The ones that haunt me
in the morning, noon
and all day long.

It’s not just a cup of coffee,
It’s more than that.
Like you and I.

Image – FR Lubbe
Text: FR Lubbe

The Ties That Bind Us

The things we gather.
The things we keep.
Like you, I’m burdened too
with the ties that bind us
and the things we think define us.

We hunt and hound.
For food.
For love.
But like this moment,
our hunger,
lust and even pain will pass…
’till tomorrow.

Like tears
or smiles
and kisses
the things we gather,
and the things we keep
don’t last forever.
They come as we request
and leave upon demand.

The ties that binds us
and the things we think define us
are born from you and I.
And when our need
no longer hurts
without polite or pardon
how quick do we discard
the flowers from our garden?

The things we gather.
The things we keep.
Like you, I’m burdened too
with the ties that bind us
and the things we think define us.

Image – Little Red Shoes (FR Lubbe)
Text: FR Lubbe

War and Peace

Quibbling does not a good sauce make,
whilst we have bread to break.
T’is why I say, it’s pointless
counting rabbits before they’re baked.
Brother, we have walked this land
in pride and in vain a long time ago.

So, ask again: Why this war?
The bloodshed,
tears and pain?
What are we to gain?

The past is gone
and we must start again
without memory or salute
of our world so pollute.

I command this now: Take my hand.
Accept this peaceful offering,
and build a future side by side
as friends and not as foes –
to love each other without any woes.

** Dedicated to all the lives lost and the broken dreams suffered from all the wars throughout the ages**

Text:  Francois Lubbe
Image: Francois Lubbe