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Photo by NHM

Photo by NHM

Assotto Saint was a Haitian-born American poet, performance artist and musician who was one of the first black activists to disclose that he was HIV-positive in the 1980s. Here, Philly poet Lewis Whittington’s prayer-like ode to Saint conjures up profound images from the artist’s life, with inspiration from Voodoo, gay eroticism and the ravages of AIDS.

3am in the farthest corner,
anxiety fogs the eyes above a
skyline of city lights, signs,
& satellites.
-Assotto Saint (1957-1994), “Wishing for Wings”

“Saintos”

Unenslaved
flying
orphaned
unsainted earthy
fabulous
Haitian Émigrés
Yves glitter heathen
Glamored down sainta
2nd Ave

With tribe of internationale gay boys
in heat
All living their childhoods
Again denied once

for the first time

Even when they know that the light
around them shifted
To a ruined joy
that must be witnessed,
but not outlived before
Night falls liberated on
Assotto Saint
Once Yves Lubin, sainto
Gods Assainto
Gay warriors
Storm the gates
Saintos gay
Liberators
Libertines
To exorcise
Sexual auteurs
Sainto who prowled
To write
Danced in the circle of fire
The perfect moment
luminous in negative light
Unearthing scarred ritual
Sainti sainto
Kneeling with him
in ravaged
Silhouettes,
Gazed on Mercury
smoked with Mars
Beat the rings of Saturn
And went to the clubs
Assotto Yves
Lubin saintosaintosainto
Was with him when
His lover died
And he was with all the gods
When he was dying himself
Sainto
Spells of a voodoo doll
bound to himself
Prisms that no one
else stopped to see
And bled those crusaders
Of the hypocrisies
The brutalities
he clung to
red roses as
Vanquished
ran ashore screaming
“Seagods
I am alive
Simply, violently,
screamed for his Mother
All Sainto nights
Spiritus Sanctu baby
Sainto Maria &
Maria darling
So blessed upon
Swallowed Rainbows
So cast out to sea.

-Lewis Whittington

Lewis Whittington is a writer and poet based in Philadelphia. He’s written about the arts and gay politics for publications around the country.

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