Cold Substance

Their tears spill over my lids,
sting my eyes, drip down my skin.

Some families direct their rage at other victims,
laying blame, unable to comprehend that their children’s choices
were freely made.
I have been like them, and there are times when I wish
I hadn’t learnt my lessons so well;
that I could rise up and say, “it was him”;
anything to take my mind off the streets of pain, the losses
that gain in number every day —
but the perpetrator is faceless;
a brown powder with no individual markings
and no sentiency.

When I was a child, dessicated coconut was often sprinkled onto our school puddings. I thought it was the worst thing that had ever been invented; hate seemed an appropriate word to use in connection with it.

Now I direct my seething hate
at tiny packages that once cost thirty quid, but have since
dropped to twenty-five.

I want to shout obscenities at heroin;
to voice my hatred, to threaten the needle of death with annihilation,
to spit foam at the filth, as I scream: kill, kill…
but every time I get there too late, and with no weapons,
while passionless heroin builds up its armoury, boosting itself
with hidden fentanil,
another cold substance with no brain,
no wicked heart to whisper: death to the meek,
yet it enters the veins of pained seekers,
and fills up our graves.

As fatalities leap,
we repeat the phrase: rest in peace,
please rest in peace, we beg,
rest in peace with the rest
who rest forever in peace.

We brave the rain to lean bouquets against
wet walls where grieving souls will weep
to see wilting petals push those they love
into history.

We walk away, wishing for white doves,
their beaks holding gifts of gentle serenity,
and helplessly, we say:
At least he is finally at peace.

Rest In Peace, Nathaniel – your friends will remember you as one of the best.

I was eleven years old when I first heard the following song. I was deeply affected by the horrific imagery. The words stayed with me, playing in my head when my best friend at college became addicted to heroin, and all through the years of my children’s addictions.

©Jane Paterson Basil

20 thoughts on “Cold Substance

    1. He was a very popular young man, and close to my circle of people. Three of my four children knew him well. Claire is devastated, one of my nieces is taking time out from a six-month nursing stint in Australia, her sister is in pieces – they were extremely close.
      He went through recovery and was talking about becoming a drugs support worker. I hate addiction.
      I can’t stop the tears. My friend Elaine says I’m crying for all I’ve suffered in the past, but I think it’s just that I can’t bear to see those I love grieving. It’s happened too many times.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Doing things with your hands is good therapy – I find crochet and still life drawing are the same. You disappear into that moment, that action of your fingers. I crochetted a lot when I had an anxiety disorder – it really helped. All the best to you Jane x

            Liked by 1 person

            1. You crochet! I prefer crochet, but my grandson wants me to knit him some socks. I was tempted to crochet them instead, but I don’t think he’d appreciate that 🙂
              And you draw! Pencils are my favourite art medium… but these days I leave the art to my sister.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I do crochet – pretty basically and badly as the squares always come out slightly wonky. And I did used to draw a lot of still life – and I was pretty reasonable at it, I think – though that has given way to words over the years. I picked up a pencil for the first time in ages the other day as I’d bought my son a set of pencils for school. It felt rather nice – easier on the mind than writing 🙂

                Liked by 1 person

                    1. Thank you, Lynn. I think the madness of the last few years has finally fried my brain; I’m having a (hopefully, temporary )blip, unless I’ve used up my lifetime consignment of creative words.
                      Thank goodness for knitting wool 🙂

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. You’re allowed a blip or two, Jane, after all you’ve been through. And I’m sure it will be temporary too – just keep knitting, keep creating one stitch next to another. All the best, my dear x

                      Liked by 1 person

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