Tag Archives: grief

Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days Free for World AIDS Day

Shortly after my book Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days was published, I started a little tradition of making the Kindle/ebook version of it free for a few days starting on December 1st, in commemoration of World AIDS Day.

So have at it with my compliments, and feel free to share this post with people you know.


Twelve Springs/Last Songs for a Paralyzed Pigeon

Twelve Springs/Last Songs for a Paralyzed Pigeon

            (For Cleo)


The state of the future is mind—

all the beautiful things at peace.



Glassless world.  Primacy of sky.



Gone light.  A bird close to death

almost weightless in the hand.  Breath,

air, spirit, all one word in Aramaic: wind

gone in, so they can start the inward flight.



Steel, mint, rose.  Fallen to a sidestreet

where I would have to find her.  God’s mind.

Eyes half-closed

at the mystery of human song,

the mystery of why

I’d sing for her at all.



Twelve springs.  One long afternoon

waiting in my hand.  My songs

just air, just for her, in

and out of tune.  At midnight

it was done.  The inward flight:  all wind,

no horizon.



Bring me back a sprig, my steadfast dove,

let it show me that it’s true, that there’s

a place for you, space in God’s hand,

pretty wings to cut the air.

That you knew about the love.



We are all birds dreaming, hungry

at the hour of sleep.

The Annual Holding Breath World AIDS Day Free Book Promotion

I’ve decided to make a tradition that I actually care about, now that Thanksgiving is over (as far as holidays are concerned, Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day are the only ones I really love; don’t even get me started on how I feel about Columbus Day).  Last year, shortly after I published Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, I realized that it would be appropriate to give free Kindle versions of the book away for World AIDS Day (December 1st).

This year, the book will be free starting tomorrow (11/29/13), and the offer will be good through Sunday, which will be World AIDS Day.  After that, I won’t be giving it away again until next year.

So far, the book has a 4.6 out of 5 star rating from 21 reviews on Amazon.com (and another 5-star review on Amazon U.K.).  As usual, if you download the book (or buy the print version) and read it and feel like leaving a review, I’d really appreciate it.  Every one helps, and they’re fun to read (except for that one 2-star one…).

Here ya go (and then I’m done with the book giveaways!):



When I first published Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days a year ago, I created a Facebook page for it.  Then I got tired of spending so much time on my personal Facebook page, and closed my account.  Unfortunately, that meant that I had to deactivate the book’s page as well.

Then I realized (duh) that I didn’t necessarily need to close my account entirely–I can simply stay off of my personal page (thereby demonstrating my high level of self-restraint), but still reactivate the Holding Breath page.  So that’s what I’ve done.

Anyway, if readers of this blog would be kind enough to go over to the page and “Like” it, I’d really appreciate it.  Of course, I’d appreciate it even more if you read the book, and that is my segue into telling you that Amazon just launched its “Kindle MatchBook discount”, whereby people who buy the print version of the book ($10.76) can also get the ebook for a big discount (99 cents, down from $3.99).  That way, in case there’s someone on your holiday gift-list who might be interested in reading a love story that takes place in the midst of the worst of the AIDS epidemic in New York in the late 1980’s, and you’d like to read the book too, you can get both at a discount.  Just sayin’…

Here’s the link to the book’s Facebook page:


And here, again, is the link to Amazon’s page for the print version of Holding Breath, in case you’d like to take Amazon up on its kind offer (they’re like that over there):



A Birthday, an Anniversary, and a Book Sale

Today would be David’s (the man about whom I wrote Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days) 66th birthday.  Although his life was very often something close to hell–perhaps something that he sometimes wished he’d never been born into (I don’t know that for certain, of course; he always struck me as remarkably optimistic, in spite of things)–I feel that his birth is also something that I should always celebrate in some way.  David changed the course of my life for the better, and permanently.  I sometimes wonder what I would have been like if I’d never met him; it’s not a pretty thought.

The following is an excerpt from the book about his birthday in 1989, six months before he passed on, and my realization a year later that it was approaching again, and that he was gone:

“I found an entry from 16 October 1989 that mentions his birthday.  Part of it got wet at some point and the ink ran, so some of it is illegible, but what I can put together of it says:

In six days it’ll be David’s birthday…short year ago that (I took him out) for lunch and he told me…about his life.  (We were supposed to) go see (the building’s owner) about his apartment, but it was pouring rain and (we didn’t think he should) stay out in it so I bought him an umbrella and he walked me to the PATH station.  I kissed him on the cheek and wished him happy birthday and he looked surprised, as I guess he should have been.  Then I went home and he went back up to the Marion Hotel.

Autumn’s got me thinking about him, too.  And the fact that I actually did get TB from him.  It’s stupid, but I almost like the idea that I caught something from him.  Any bond…

Today is also the first anniversary of Holding Breath‘s publication (no coincidence there), so this seems like a good time to put the Kindle version of the book on sale for a few days.  So, from today (21 October 2013) through Wednesday the 23rd, the price will be reduced from $3.99 to .99.  Once again, here’s the link to the book’s Amazon page (where you can also read the reviews):


Here’s a description of the book:

In 1988, recently out of a graduate Creative Writing program in New York City, Nancy Bevilaqua was an aspiring poet in need of a job. She answered a newspaper ad seeking caseworkers for people with AIDS, and, much to her surprise, got the job. She shouldn’t have been surprised; in 1988 AIDS was an epidemic completely out of anyone’s control beyond some toxic and ineffective treatments, and fear and misunderstanding of the disease were rampant. Very few people wanted to be in contact with people who’d been infected with HIV.

A year later, a 41-year-old heroin addict named David was assigned to her as a client. Something about him drew her to him, and in very little time the boundary between “client” and “caseworker” dissolved, and she fell in love with him. For the next eight months she lived with him in his Lower East Side apartment, caring for him and waiting with him for the inevitable end.

Before succumbing to the disease, David asked Nancy to write a book about him. Twenty-two years later, after going through an unexpected and very painful period of something she learned was called “disenfranchised grief”, she finally published Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, which is a loving account of her eight months with David, and the grief she’d had to hide for so long.

“Paint It, Black” : The Anger Part of Grief

Every so often I’ll hear a song somewhere and wonder why I didn’t include it on my playlist for Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days.  The Stones’ “Paint It, Black” is one of those songs.

In many reviews of the book, people write about the sadness of the story; quite a few say that it made them cry.  And of course David’s passing filled me with a sorrow for which it seemed there would never be any remedy–a sorrow that came back to me, full-force, sixteen years later when I started once again to try to write his book.

But the book also describes my anger–anger at the loss, anger that people’s lives seemed to go on as if nothing had happened when I lost David, anger at AIDS and the attitudes about it, anger that a man I’d been seeing around the time I met David had the nerve to want to spend time with me again, and even, sometimes, an irrational anger at David himself.  And the anger returned all those years later, when my bout of “disenfranchised grief” began.

This is an excerpt from the book in which I describe the anger I felt shortly after David’s death:

“I wrote something in my blog about trying to get back to my old life: …returning for the first time after David’s death to one of the bars I used to spend a lot of time in before I met him, sitting alone on a barstool under the blue lights in the early evening as the band was setting up, feeling, for the first time, anger instead of grief, or as a different manifestation of grief. Old friends tried to talk to me, but I could barely speak; they had become intrusions, and I hated them for it. I hated the lights, I hated the music, and I hated anyone or anything who wasn’t David, or a means of bringing him back, and I went home early.”

“Paint It, Black” is such an obvious “soundtrack” to those feelings that I’m really surprised that I never thought to include it in my playlist.  Consider it included now. (Generally when I provide links to YouTube versions of songs I try to use the ones not preceded by ads, but this is a wonderful version of the song–a live version by a group of little boys who call themselves the Rolling Stones.)


Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days is available on Amazon.com here:


Another Song from the Playlist: “Hurt” (Johnny Cash Version)

I’d never heard this song–either the original version by Nine Inch Nails or this cover by Johnny Cash–until the latter somehow accidentally showed up on my iPod one day while I was going through some of the worst of my delayed grief, seventeen years after David passed away as a result of AIDS.  Like “Streets of Philadelphia,” it knocked the breath out of me the first time I heard it (and often still does).  I don’t know everything that was going through David’s mind during the last eight months of his life, but, like the lyrics of “Streets of Philadelphia,” the lyrics of “Hurt” (and the way Cash sings them, and the video itself) seem very likely to be the kinds of thoughts that a man–an almost lifelong heroin addict–who knows that he is dying might have.

Still, I will never see David’s life as an “empire of dirt”; I will always believe that it was worth much more than he had, I think, come to believe it was.  As I write in Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, “Like any life, it mattered.”  That’s actually kind of the point of the book.

The song is here:


(Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days is available at:


A Song About Addiction and Love

One of the reasons I wanted to create a blog for my memoir, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days (available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009TV4CE6) was that at the end of the book I’ve included a playlist of songs that seem to me to be as much a part of the story–both of my eight months with David in 1989 and early 1990, and of the painful days of grief right after his passing, and then again many years later–as any other element (I’ve always been the kind of person who needs a soundtrack to virtually everything I do!).

I’ve wished that there were a way to just somehow insert a soundtrack into the book, as if it were a movie, but so far that’s not an option.  Here, however, I can at least amuse myself (or, in some cases, make myself sad) by inserting YouTube videos of the songs listed on the book’s playlist.  If you do read the book, listening some of the songs might very well add to the experience.  (With the exception of Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia,” which I already posted here, I’d recommend in most cases just listening to the song without watching the video itself, as the latter will probably be a distraction from the content of the book–if you’re playing it as an accompaniment to the book, that is.)

So now I need to decide which song to post today…Got it–“It’s Been Awhile,” by Staind.  It’s about the best song about addiction I’ve ever heard, and it’s beautiful, and so much of it (particularly the line about seeing the way candles light someone’s face, which is something I mention in the memoir) reminds of me of David.  Here it is:


The Song That Haunts Me the Most

Bruce Springsteen’s song, “Streets of Philadelphia,” had a LOT of emotional impact on me as I began to write Holding Breath–I mention it, and the video Springsteen made for it and the film (see below), several times.  Not only are the lyrics almost eerily insightful into the mind of someone with full-blown AIDS back in the 1980’s, but in the video Springsteen looks so much like David did back when he could still walk the streets of New York (something he loved to do), that for a long time I couldn’t watch it without crying.


I’d almost call it “required watching” for anyone who reads the book. 🙂

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