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
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