Roses in Her Veins,
or A Child of the 90s Imagines the AIDS Crisis

Lindsey Twigg


Venus had had a long day.
A very, very, very long day.
Venus wanted to relax.
Venus was tired of meetings
and high heels
and messenger bags
and bad coffee.
She was tired of brokering high-wattage deals
and power-walking through white-glove lobbies.
Venus needed a break.
Venus went clubbing.
And no, none of this exclusive Studio 54
champagne and furs shit.
I mean
nasty, sweaty, grindhouse
they’re selling E behind the counter
and there’s fucking in the bathroom
kind of clubbing.

Sometimes goddesses need a break too.

Venus arrived in heels.
Because that’s just who Venus is. Venus let her hair down.
It’s long.
It’s sexy.
Venus had a drink.
Or two.
Or six.

Venus met another woman
at the bar and was smitten
from the start.
Maybe it was her perfume.
Maybe it was her knickers.
Maybe it was
the ear-drum shattering bass drop.

The woman is somewhere between
and a punk-ass prostitute.
She’s different, she’s mysterious, and it’s all very strange.
Venus is always the mysterious one.

Venus asks the woman what her name is.
Venus never does that.
Names aren’t important,
the woman says,
tracing her fingers around Venus’ hips.
Venus is intoxicated.
“My name is Aids.”


Venus gets laid.
Maybe in the bathroom.
Maybe at the Ritz.
No one really knows.
Venus wakes up and Aids is
still there.
Aids is beautiful.
She is somewhere between
and a punk-ass prostitute.

Aids stays the weekend and
Venus is euphoric.
Venus is the goddess of euphoria
but Venus can’t remember the last time
she had it herself.

“You work too hard,”
says Aids
kissing Venus’ breasts.
“I love you,”
says Venus
stroking Aids’ hair.

And then Aids was gone.
And Venus was left alone.
Alone to broker deals
with gods that didn’t care.

Aids left behind a little present.
Venus didn’t find it for weeks.
But when she did.

She found a lesion.

Or two.
Or six.
They spread across Venus’ perfect
a web of rashes and sick
as if Aids were to say
“You’re mine.”

Venus carries on
like Venus does.
Brokering deal
for The Queer.
But every deal she seals
every union she approves
is tainted.
With Aids.

And everywhere from that day
The Queer began to get
sick. With every deal
with every couple
with every match
Venus made
she infected

The Queer
realized they were getting sick.
And not others.
Lesions began blossoming on their skin
and soon the Not-Queer began to notice
the red and purple roses
that were entangling Queers
in love
and vomit
and sores.

The Queer didn’t know what to do.
Their loves were dying.
They were dying.
was everyone

The Not-Queers didn’t like it
one bit.
They didn’t like
The Queer
to begin with.
And now The Queer were sick.
And dying.
And none of the Not-Queer wanted that
for themselves.
What if we’re next?
They whispered.


A few good Queer set out to find
the source of this
Whatever it was.
They searched the whole of
and outside that too.
But Aids was nowhere to be found.
Then they thought of Venus
for advice.
“Venus is in charge of matchmaking The Queer,”
they said.
“Venus will know what to do.”

The Queer found Venus in her flat.
At her desk.
Freezing in a fur coat.
Her hands blue and damp
from cold sweats.

“We are getting sick.”
They said.
“I know.”
She said.

And then Venus cried.
First tears.
Then blood.
She cried
and cried
and cried
and when the blood hit the floor
it turned to into roses.

And then they knew.
They didn’t know how.
Venus had never been sick.
Venus doesn’t get sick.
But they knew it was her.

The Queer asked her,
“Who did this to you?”
Venus replied,
“Aids did this to me.”
“Who is Aids?”
They asked.
“She’s gone.”

The CDC took Venus away.
“It’s just for a little while,”
they said.
“We’ll keep you safe,”
they said
until they knew more,
until they found Aids.
“You won’t find her.”
“It’s just till we find her.”

And then Venus disappeared
the blue and white walls of Quarantine.

And so The Queer were left to broker their own matches
on their own.

No one else could do it for them.
Not the Not-Queers.
Not the other gods.
Not the other goddesses.
For no one else understood
what it was like to be Queer
and to be loved
all at once.

Venus was supposed to bring them peace.
Venus was supposed to bring them freedom.
Venus was supposed to make their love known.
So they could marry,
so they could love,
so they could have their own children,
just like Not-Queers.

The Not-Queers didn’t care.
The Not-Queers had power.
The Not-Queers didn’t need Venus.
What did they need Venus for
when they had everything
they could every ask for?

The Not-Queers rejoiced
when Venus was put in Quarantine.
The Not-Queers were happy
that they had found the source.

But the CDC didn’t do a thing. Not.
A damn.
Venus begged them
to test her
to purple their stores
with vials
of her blood.
They didn’t listen.

“Help us!”
The Queer cried,
“Who will help us?”
Nobody listened.
The CDC,
the Non-Profits,
the People of the Book.
They all said,
“You must have brought this on yourself.”

And every so often
a piercing cry is heard
when another Queer
finds roses on their skin.
a bartender.
Tomorrow, the executive.
Perhaps they cry,
“It was needles, I swear!
Just needles.”


Venus didn’t know what to do.
Venus called her friend.
Venus told her friend to come
and take away
the pain of all
The Queer.

And so Death came
to Manhattan.
Death in his
dark velvet suit
and shiny black shoes.

And he touched
each of the Queer
that Venus had infected.
And they were free.
And all their lesions turned
to roses
and their bodies were
and beautiful
once again.

Free from suffering
free from shame
free from the lives that they
couldn’t have
because life itself had
stifled them
cut them
and left them bleeding.

And free from their
physical ailments

And then Death turned to
and said
Do you want
to touch
Venus thought for a moment.
Thought real hard.
she said at last.
“Very well,”
said Death.
“I don’t want you to touch me
because I have hope,”
Venus said.
“Yes, I have hope that
one day people will
find a cure
for AIDS
for hate.
But until then I cannot stop
inspiring love
amongst The Queer.
I cannot let
this disease
this hate
overcome my love
for my children.”

And with a flourish of
his velvet coat-tails,
Death was gone.

Venus lived on.
She endured
the pain
the Queer.
She visits
them sometimes
it doesn’t matter.
Their pain has eased
a bit
with time.


Venus rode the subway
Venus never does that.
Venus rode the subway
to a tattoo shop
with some dark,
brooding name
and when she got there,
she asked for
a plentitude
of roses.
Because after years of
covering up
with that silly
fur coat,
she was finally ready
to show off the roses
that had been living in
her veins
ever since that
stunning, nasty
with AIDS.

Venus was done waiting.
got inked.



Lindsey Twigg is a lyrical poet and playwright committed to writing poetry of the body, particularly for marginalized voices. Her theatrical work, Sinner/Saint, has been produced in both Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. This is her first literary publication. 

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