Addictus

devil may care - dependency - Pauper Lear - fire down the hole - my three uncles

devil may care

 

i have to admit he looked pretty cool

smoking that cigarette

as if telling the world that he didn't care

he wasn't afraid of anything

he was beyond all that

the whining and the sniffling

the cardiogram and the radiation

he had super-powers that would protect him

from vomiting

and drowning in his own blood

 

the devil may care, but he didn't

 

dependency

 

the weak, weary numbness

as if the body were only a receptacle

far from the tabernacle of soul

 

thoughts stray this way and that

nothing makes sense

but the desire for a deep sleep

or to be awake again

 

nothing makes sense

but the desire for the drug

the only thing that might connect neuron to neuron

thought to thought

in a line of being

in a way of seeing

 

so I walk down the meaningless street

fingers slipping through nickels and dimes

like water

tell the man what I need

hoping that I have enough to buy my freedom

to purchase flight

to follow the rainbow

and dance the jig of my Irish luck

and maybe get my life together

to write up a game plan

line up all of my ducks

 

I will get all this once the drug hits my system

and I will sit in deep bliss

double latte throbbing in my veins

 

Pauper Lear

 

Can you spare a loonie? his thoughts said

and gave me that haunted heroin look

so I told him with my thoughts

we don’t serve empty caverns here

or sightless trolls

and he looked at me

trained his lightless sockets at my brain

and beamed at me

through tattered clothes small vices do appear*

and down the back alley

did disappear

 

———-

* In Shakespeare's play, Lear tells Gloucester, Through tatter'd clothes small vices do appear; / Robes and furr'd gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold, / And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks: / Arm it in rags, a pigmy's straw does pierce it (King Lear 4:6).

 

fire down the hole

 

on the corner of Pender and Main he spat

and shouted to the lost tourist

that he couldn’t stand the smell of cigarettes, they burned his fingers

and he felt like he was walking through Calcutta and everyone was burning hay

and dung and the scraps from cardboard signs

with brightly coloured polyethylene letters singing his nostrils

as the toxic smoke scoured his larynx and made him cough up jagged bits of clotted blood

 

his fingers were yellow and brown and cracks were appearing down his teeth

some sort of strange cancerous bulge appeared on his nose, yet all this didn’t stop him from fingering his pack of twenty tight sticks

and eyeing the girl in the tight skirt as she plucked a pink Zippo

from her faux Gucci purse

with fingers that were long and delicate

 

it was worth every leprous convulsion

he said to himself

as he stepped up to her and asked for a light

 

the alcoholics

 

with half their minds on alcohol,

they only half minded the idiocy of their companions:

one was reworking Nietzsche in a nightmare version

of a philosophy class he never went to

on account of the proximity of the campus pub;

another was regurgitating Chomsky with no rigour or direction

his mind a mishmash of Michael Moore documentaries

and anger at the Liquor Control Board for taxing the poor

working stiffs (although he hadn’t had a job

since he threw an empty bottle of Johnny Walker at his boss);

the third was mumbling something about people, stars

and the likelihood that the other two were spies

trying to control the conversation so that he wouldn’t notice

they were eyeing his bottle of rum

 

none listened to the others, and all wondered

why their wives had left them

and their children threw away their answering machines

and the world was such a brutal, mean, and selfish place

 

my three uncles

 

all the guys who bragged

about all the guys who could drink you under the table

are now six feet under the table

 

the Legion table that seemed so sturdy then

is rickety now;

it once held up the elbows of my uncle Marlin

who was a tough guy in the Navy

(a whiskey-bottle-a-day kind of tough)

and now seems a skeleton.

When he returned to civilian life

he returned to the sea:

floating in the endless waters off Jack Daniel’s Point

his convoy finally got struck from beneath

by German schnapps  

and Löwenbräu

six fathoms deep

 

and then there was my uncle Garth

from the same small prairie town

stock of tough guys

Do it yourself, Keep it all in

rather, Drink it all in

till your wife leaves you

and your arms become like rakes

that can’t gather much nourishment

from the untilled ground.

He was a farmer who grew up in the Dirty Thirties

when the soil was Dry-Gulch dry

where the silos once held like rich garners the full ripen’d grain

but now hold only dust.

The wheat fields that once shone like gold in the august sun

were inundated by the red river of cabernet sauvignon

that pumped cirhhosis through his veins

and made his chickens run

 

and finally there was uncle Francis

a sturdier fellow you’ve never seen

no rake at all

at least until his liver called it quits

and called him on all the party shots of vodka, rye, and gin;

that fiery uncle with so much life

an industrious Falstaff he seemed to me

who was a skinny city kid who wouldn’t eat red meat

and said “I’m a vegetarian”

at which point he slapped onto the plate a sixteen ounce steak.

He was having none of that vegetarian nonsense,

not at his picnic table

(but after so many whiffs of the bar-b-qued meat

I was inclined to agree anyway)

anyway what would you do with a man

whose grip was like a vice

who shook hands like he was gripping a calf that strayed

from his table

where beer flowed

and laughter

and where in the end death flowed

from the manly manners

from the no-holds-barred

I-can-drink-you-under-the-picnic-table world

of my deceased uncles

 

——

Next: Working the Traps

Poetry Contents