They invented OxyContin
and put heroin out of business.
Then they invented Narcan too
just to keep them coming back
for more. Doc Norman swore
his autograph and signature
looked the same to discerning
eyes because dude got so famous
for finding back pains in disguise
people came from miles around
just to hear his name out loud.
They screamed with glee and Norman
turned to “Doc Narcan,” before “Narcan Sam,”
and he had a mural of a big bald eagle flying
out front of the American Flag
at his office suite down Quincy Center—
all those pre-4th celebrations at the door.
When they caught him selling scrip pads,
signed and swirled for days, they confined
him to house arrest, gave him a free ankle
bracelet waterproofed for his Newton
swimming pool. Watch now on the news
the way they say cancer patients
shouldn’t have to pay for chemo if dopeheads
get free shots to bring them coming back
They forget to mention— we forget
to mention— the subsidies we gave
the pharmaceutical companies
to build a better tax scam. They got
slapped on the wrist, got fitted for an anklet;
we flicked Bics to flesh and wore out
silver bracelets. Like last time I saw Collins
he swore he’d only use the needle for the juice.
But they found him dead
later the next day, swollen and ripped up
like a bad report card is what he’d
always say. Bloated and dead like a back
pain patient who caught a habit instead
and couldn’t find another way.
There’s Methadone Mile and Quincy Center,
and there’s liquid handcuffs
and sweet surrender. You can recognize a disease
like you can recognize an enemy
and still invite them back for more. First kid in Southie
to get the bug got famous—no kidding,
famous—for catching it from the needle
and not the sex.
Boy bought a Zorro mask and starred in snuff films
produced in a warehouse down the Combat Zone
before the Feds found the meth lab out back. You read
the news about the gasmasks and long slow
poisonous fumes, the fella tied up to a chair
in what used to be Fort Point. He had on S&M gear
like there’d been a party with no one else invited,
except whoever tied him to the chair and left.
Except whoever tied him to a chair and left him there,
we said, we asked, we noticed. There are different
definitions of mine shaft. There are different forms
of a canary. Where are you with the sharp
fingernails for untying, the pedicures we helped pay
for? And when are you ever coming back?
‘Twas the firefighters who called methadone
liquid handcuffs first because they watched
bruised vampires and zombies stagger back
for more and more each and every day. You say
vampire and think of movies but we hear the needles. You read
zombie and apocalypse descends; we hear the thumping
needless drum of shoes. So now when first responders
speak of strings, there’s last chance singers
belting out soundtracks of survival. You can call them
puppet ropes or hanging nooses, the strangled straps of
slow survival. And the dealers toss up sneakers
knotted tight and let them hang or dangle down
from telephone wires to show the spot to stand. Different
dealers pay the MBTA to print flyers with side effects
to be sure to ask your doctor for when you find a place
to stand. Still now, as the dealers get different deals.
Be there still. Be still here, and come
they will with magic packets close at hand.
If you stare down at your lifeline long
enough every person can predict
their future. The problem now the police
are having is giving Narcan with no strings
attached. It’s something close to loving. Only
arguing at death.
To learn to love is to stop keeping score
they used to say. And so we save 1 and 2
and count to 6 and stop. And we count to 6 once
more and stop. Pump the chests and earn
the silver linings now and stop. Our spoons cook off
and mix with melting as we learn to mix
once more. So every one of us has silver
coursing now beneath our skin and legs
and arms, a city filled with Tin Men hearing nothing
more of drums; a sea of people respond
to something else
without the benefit of heartbeat sounds
to guide us anymore.
Kurt Cole Eidsvig is an artist and poet. His work has appeared in Hanging Loose, Slipstream, Borderlands, Main Street Rag, and other journals.
Artwork, entitled “Tourniquet”, by the author.