City Lights. 2021. 128 pages.

Reviewed by James Davis

The batting of Steven Reigns’s book-length poem A Quilt for David is a story of fear and scapegoating from the height of the AIDS crisis, a tale woven through tabloids of the early 1990s but since largely forgotten. Reigns sums it up in an epigraph immediately following his dedication page:

In 1990 a young HIV-positive woman in Florida claimed she was a virgin and that her infection came from her gay, dying dentist. The media believed her, seven others came forward, and a monster was born.

Like so many maligned figures, the monster that becomes David Acer, the book’s titular dentist, was a creation of a public’s panicked instinct toward self-preservation. On his deathbed, Acer was blamed for infecting his patients with dirty instruments, including a grandmother, who likely contracted HIV from a blood infusion. Each of the claimants had their own, particular circumstances of infection, none of which had to do with David. With the help of faulty evidence from the CDC and sensationalist journalism, David and his practice took the fall. It has taken years to exonerate him, and he still inhabits the role of “monster” in many of the minds that remember him.

Onto this heavy foundation, Reigns stitches a hybrid poetry, patches of prose and strips of free-verse sewn together with no strict pattern—connection, not order, is the goal. None of the poems is titled, which tightens each page’s connection to the next. Naturally, Reigns’s Quilt refers to the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, the awe-inspiring 53-ton cooperative art project begun in 1985. In fact, the inspiration is made quite explicit. In one of several sections of free verse that address Acer directly as “you,” the speaker reveals his wish to “sew you into that larger quilt because / no one else has.” Kimberly Bergalis, his first accuser, has multiple panels. The injustice of David