To most of you the name "Gideon Ferebee" means nothing. Gideon was a Washington, DC based poet and performance artist. During the mid 1980’s Gideon, along with Essex Hemphill and five others, formed "Station to Station" the seminal Gay poetry group. Gideon died on September 24. He was 54 years old.
While this was sad news, Gideon had been preparing for death for awhile and was completely at ease with it. In his self-published 1999 book "Searching For The Boy" he wrote at length about his "impending" death. One of my favorite sentences from his essay is:
"I may be eulogized as the faggot who died of AIDS. But for God’s sake life is not about living to be 100 years old in fear, discomfort, delusion or denial."
When he wrote that he didn’t expect to survive 2000. He was off by five years. Gideon was both a friend to me and a contributor to Blacklight. I’m posting a brief section of that essay where he talks about his death, followed by his poem "When CD4’s Weep".
Finally, I’ve posted a remarkable letter Gideon wrote to me in 2000. It’s dated March 7, 2000 and accompanied some work I’d asked to publish.
At the time he was holding a deathwatch at the bedside of his lover, Leroy Sutton, who was dying of AIDS. They had been together for over fifteen years and Gideon explains his feelings in a few short, powerful sentences, in that way poets can pack so much into so little.
I would not get the letter until a month later. Each time Gideon would prepare to mail it, something would happen. On March 10th, Sutton died and Gideon noted that on the letter and he prepared to mail it then something else would happen. And Gideon would note this on the letter, by hand, which was difficult for him because he was recovering from a stroke that had left him partially paralyzed.
What makes the letter remarkable, it’s like a vignette of AIDS in real-time, on a single page. And when you know the back story it’s also a letter that could break your heart.
This is AIDS.