I wrote this in memory of Robert Massa, who died of AIDS in 1994 and was much loved at the Voice, where we worked together for many years. It was set to music for an AIDS event by Gordon Beeferman.

The last time I saw my friend he was sleeping in his living room, and a Beethoven piano sonata was playing. He was thirty-six and dying of AIDS. I sat beside his bed and spoke into his good ear. He dove for air and huffed out words. On an alphabet board he spelled, “I don’t feel cheated.” Later he spelled, “I wish I had written more,” as if to say he had cheated himself. I said, “All writers feel that way.” He wanted ice cream, and I brought him a pop from the freezer. It dripped on his hands, and I wiped them with a cloth. I thought how alive we are until almost the last moment. I said, “You have inspired much love in your odd, shy way. How do you explain it?” He said, “I’m not demanding.”

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