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
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:
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
I just wish you didn’t have to do it