Steven Riel


The Spirit Can Crest (2003)

Poetry. In The Spirit Can Crest, Steven Riel's second book, we see this gay poet attempt to describe the process of losing his younger brother, David, to AIDS. From first learning of his brother's diagnosis to confronting his own new identity as a survivor of the AIDS pandemic, Riel discovers both helplessness and strength, nearly silencing sadness and some nuggets of hope: "The spirit can crest as the body subsides. / Let me not have witnessed this in vain."

Lessons gathered from this difficult experience echo throughout the book. Several poems trace the transformation of pre-diagnosis innocence into post-diagnosis experience. Using personas such as a caught fish and the character of Rosemary Woodhouse in the film Rosemary's Baby, Riel investigates losses of innocence, asking, "Was Eden a lie?"

Readers familiar with Steven Riel's first book, How to Dream, will recognize his ongoing work of exploring boyhood, gay identity, effeminacy, and camp, but The Spirit Can Crest is permeated by a new sense of seriousness.


Your wan hallucinations
flicker on the ceiling:
rippled portents of
an aqua passage.
Mother & lover hover,
change the Chux
smeared with evidence
of your helplessness.
You no longer monitor how
eyes probe like catheters,
flutter then flare like votive flames,
come back from the hallway
carnation pink.
Your vigil has ended.
Dully your eyes stare,
& dully they shine,
hinting only of
spacious surrender,
faceless relief.

Copyright © 2003 by Steven Riel. All rights reserved.

ISBN: 0-941895-24-6
Format: Paperback - 36 pages
Language: English

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Last updated: February 13, 2014