Reigns, Steven. “A Quilt for David”, City Lights, 2021.
Revisiting David Acer
In the early 1990s, eight people who were living in a small conservative Florida town alleged that Dr. David Acer, their dentist, had infected them with HIV. Because David was gay and appeared to be sickly because of his own AIDS-related illness, he was the ideal scapegoat and victim. It was a time during the early years of AIDS when not much was understood, and homophobia was everywhere. Accuser Kimberly Bergalis managed to get an interview and cover story in “People” and others appeared on talk shows and on the front page of newspapers.
In “A Quilt for David”, poet, Steven Reigns examines the life and death of Acer and the society that used stigma against those who are vulnerable. We see how the present Covid 19 pandemic is also being looked at through medical misinformation and cultural bias. Reigns looks at an American history in a different light by questioning Acer’s accusers and reconstructing the life of a gay man that has been depicted with secrecy and shame.
Those of us who have been around for a while remember all too how we have had to live lives of secrecy and discrimination simply based on our sexuality. We have had to deal with discrimination and questions about who we are and how we live and love. Even though things are so much better now, the past history has left an indelible mark on us and we have been scarred. Reigns takes this very serious as he returns honor to those who died of AIDS and looks at Acer’s life and death as representative of the way we lived. As I read, I was moved to tears and uplifted by hope. This is not only Acer’s story but our story as well. Now, some thirty years after his death, Acer becomes the symbol of hate and lies that have hurt our community for way too long and Reigns’ words bring this home to a new generation.
Poetry is based on emotion and it is impossible not to be emotionally moved by what we read here. We do not often get a look at what happened during AIDS in the way we do here and while it is heartbreaking, it is also liberating. I have long been a fan of Reigns as a writer and as a person and he has surpassed himself with “A Quilt for David”. Each word is important and shows his devotion to his subject. I find it hard to write about this book as I am so deeply affected by what I read here. I am quite sure I will never forget it.