Needle Exchange 1986, 1987, . . ., 1998, . . .

Sam Friedman

Rain after rain,
snow after snow,
by the sweat on our brows
and by the sweat that makes our armpits
like the presuppositions of political discourse
and media inanity,
we hand out needles,
we hand out condoms,
we hand out love.

Life in the frozen trenches.

Life in the frozen trenches-of love.

We do not move.
We are steadfast,
we are entrenched,
we are in the trenches,
while around us
politicians dance and thrust,
businessmen engage in a war of lightning maneuver
that moves the virus around the world,
around our trenches,
around our hearts;
and in the trenches we produce
            after proof
                                  after proof
                                                      after proof
that needle exchange works
and we save thousands of lives.
BUT . . .
        around our frozen trenches,
        our tiny islets of sweat-clogged love
        in cities based on hate
the virus swims through needles and veins
in the streets where our tiny numbers cannot be,
and the deaths of thousands of "junkies"
are not mourned,
do not provoke headlines of OUTRAGE,
and jobs disappear as belts are tightened
like nooses
and the business of business is corporate
and the sun blazes down through a sky without ozone
and sweat begrimes our groins
as needles go out, and needles come back,
and our hearts melt again
and again
in the frozen trenches. Big Hammer, 4, 2001. pp. 32-33.

In SR Friedman, Needles, drugs, and defiance: Poems to organize by, North American Syringe Exchange Network: 1999.