In the Time of PrEP
by 
Jacques J. Rancourt
Jacques J. Rancourt
Color photo of author Jacques J. Rancourt.

The inaugural title in our chapbook series was Jacques J. Rancourt's In the Time of PrEP. Rancourt is the author of Novena, winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd prize (Pleiades Press, 2017). He has held poetry fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, and Stanford University, where he was a Wallace Stegner Fellow. His poems have appeared in The Georgia ReviewKenyon ReviewMissouri ReviewNew England Review, Ploughshares, and Virginia Quarterly Review, among other journals, as well as in Best New Poets.

Of the collection, Eduardo C. Corral (author of Slow Lightning, winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize) writes, “In this country, AIDS is no longer a quick death sentence. Jacques J. Rancourt, born the year AZT was released, makes visible its wreckage in the present. The plague years—queer bodies kissed by death and public scorn—shadow the speaker as he cruises, travels, and marries. Rancourt's language is finely chiseled, attentive to the spiritual and the carnal. Each poem reminds us to live, to remember.”

from 
In the Time of PrEP

THE END HAD NOT YET PASSED OVER US

That God first placed an angel

                          with a flaming sword to guard

             Eden’s gates; that pleasure could poison;

                          that we could be punished

further; that the Death Horse blazed

                          through here & did not stop for me

             though I asked it to, though I reached out a hand

                          to course my fingers through its mane—

I knew. Snow falls. Termites eat out

                          the tree’s giant heart. I wish

             I could remain unchanged had the plague

                          passed through me. I wish

the geranium back to bloom, the frost to the eaves,

                          the fire back to the candles

             the children carried through the orchard

                          the night it burned down. I watch

the woman flatten the snake with her foot

                          just to see how much blood it holds,

             but what does this have to do with God?

                          I was careless, yes, & spared.

That God first placed an angel

                          with a flaming sword to guard

             Eden’s gates; that pleasure could poison;

                          that we could be punished

further; that the Death Horse blazed

                          through here & did not stop for me

             though I asked it to, though I reached out a hand

                          to course my fingers through its mane—

I knew. Snow falls. Termites eat out

                          the tree’s giant heart. I wish

             I could remain unchanged had the plague

                          passed through me. I wish

the geranium back to bloom, the frost to the eaves,

                          the fire back to the candles

             the children carried through the orchard

                          the night it burned down. I watch

the woman flatten the snake with her foot

                          just to see how much blood it holds,

             but what does this have to do with God?

                          I was careless, yes, & spared.