From: Urban Chemistry


Oh, when that heroin is in my blood
and that blood is in my head
then thank God I’m as good as dead

~ Lou Reed


We thought it was the hospital
that scared you straight, forced you
to turn around.

Not long after helping you vacate your apartment –
now out of work, using up your sick time,
living with those who once fed you
as a child,
now feed you as a woman.

We thought it was your taste
of guilt, your glimpse
of death – of eternal, never-ending
emptiness –
of being on the borderline of either a weak heartbeat
or none.

Sure, now you’ve doubled your number of Marlboros:
upped it to two packs per day.
But the heroin, you swear it’s gone for good.
Not one spare hit for the offensive filtration
of a depleted nervous system, a labored blood stream,
a smothered cerebral psyche – or at least
what’s left of your mind.

While you were sick, we all linked together –
united as if a league and spoke
of how you once had been – spoke of the intellect
that had put others to shame.

Yet, in our hearts, we knew you were gone


It was three a.m. – exhausted, half asleep,
making a needed nightly visit to the toilet –
three a.m. when my sight caught a moving silhouette
on the cool, dimly lighted porch:
a neck slightly tilted, one arm firmly extended,
the other injecting that undeniable, voiceless love.

But it was not my sight
that sold the story, convinced me
that you were lost –
not my sight, but the second when silence broke
and I listened to one stranger’s long, soothing sigh –
one stranger’s faint, suffering sound
of pity,
of compassion,
of forfeit.

Credit: First appeared in The Rockhurst Review 21: 68-69.