Elegy for an ACT UP Warrior by Peggy Turnbull

In Memory of Mark Kostopoulos, 1954-1992


You fought death with your body

at the FDA barricades in 1988

their ivory tower indifference no match

for your open mouth.

Headband around your curls,

infected, in desperate combat

you shamed power and won.

You were the voice of life, a moral authority

challenging all who would let you die.

You flamed like a firecracker,

loud and beautiful

burning out into gray ash.

At your funeral 250 mourners blew whistles,

pounded drums, and held your portrait high

on Santa Monica Boulevard.


It’s twenty four years later.

I think of you

as  June’s playful breezes

stir the flowering shrubs.

On this sunny ridge

everything that killed you is benign.

Swelling signals a bloom,

not an invasion.

A thrush is a bird fluting a tune,

not fur on your tongue.

Purple is a wood violet,

not a lesion.



you blew through me

onward to your destiny.

Until I met you

I didn’t know it was really possible

to change the world.


Peggy Turnbull is a poet, librarian, and member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.  She enjoys hiking the ridges and swales on the western shore of Lake Michigan and is a fan of state parks and the Ice Age Trail.

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