Dear Susan

before you were such a junkie that you’d only stop talking

when a belt was between your teeth

I met you sober, when you had to move from Jersey to Berkeley

to put a stake through your habits,


I was just a small town boy,

who worked the drive through at mcdonalds,

wrote poems no one would read

and dreamed for a life bigger than downing bottles in bags in strip malls

and you


were a big city sestina of sass,

the first stripper I’d ever met in my community college writing class

where no one had the weight behind their words

but you were an escape story


trying to type away the rough knuckled rapes in your subtitles

your non-fiction about call girls vanishing in chop shops

low rent hit men, and fucking on a bed of cash

in a peep show wasteland of meth labs and methadone clinics

and I’d sit at your stiletto’s and listen to your gutter glory

that sparkled like crystals on a makeup mirror.


But you thought daddy buying school would keep you out of the corners

and you only called everyone else square because your life

went in circles


you celebrated your first month of sobriety

with a glass of wine

two weeks later

your nose would only lift for the perfume of strychnine,


until that sweaty summer night

you said this…is better than sex.

you only had one needle left

and you made me go first.

my belt was broken so you tied me up with a bra strap,

tapped the metronome morse code of my pulse

and sank in surgical steel deep to the hilt

until my blood curdled pink in the plunger

like melted valentines candy.


You said, this is what it is to fuck God.

You take the lord’s name in vein.


the world caught fire:

my finger-tips screaming,

pupils blown out to black holes,

novels exploding in my head like shattered neon.

I clawed myself down to bitten cuticles

gouging trenches in my face hunting for phantom spiders

and spent two days hiding the voices in my shower

and answering the phone to dial-tone.


I didn’t call you for a month after that.


That was before you were such a junkie

that you’d sleep with a syringe of crystal under your pillow

and mainline cold

before the sun peeled itself off the scab of the horizon

before you were a chain-smoking wraith

with eyes holed out under mascara

arms abscessed into rosaries, a motor-mouth over menthols

tracks bruising sick shades

of a decomposing watercolor paint set


I wasn’t there the night you tried to quit meth

by switching to black tar heroin

and you od’d and dropped sucking air

to the cigarette torched carpet

and paramedics had to break your ribcage

to pound an adrenaline shot

into that muscle I tried to win over for eight months


but your pulse went straight as a line cut with a razor

and you didn’t need a doctor to tell you:

your heart just isn’t in this anymore


because it did what you couldn’t, what I had to:

it stopped.


dear Susan,

I never got to thank you.

Thank you for proving poison doesn’t play favorites

It takes down the best of us

even a girl so beautifully alive sliding down a pole

you’d swear she could bite a bullet

and make it moan


Thank you for showing me

I don’t want to be a voyeur to my own death

that there’s no glamour in the gutter,

just trash and throwaways that no one wants

and thank you for saving me

from myself

I just wish you didn’t have to do it

in one