Why I Learned to Do Drugs Responsibly

poetry 0
Ricky Ray

 

Because waking up in the hospital, handcuffed to the bed,
charcoal staining my teeth, my face blue with death,
was no fun. Because dressing up as a woman, learning how
to shave my legs while doing everything in my power

not to cut myself, was. Because the memory of a girl
I could kiss for an hour straight without coming up for air
was worth more than ten years of snow snuffed from mirrors,
wishing she hadn’t died. Because poetry turned the tables

and chopped me into its lines, and I hope it doesn’t ever stop.
Because one beer, held by the neck, once a week, each sip
swished seven times, the mouthfeel leading to the slow trickle
down the back of the tongue, is how I learned to praise the Lord.

Because asking myself to care as much as I was once careless
took more than I had to give, so I asked for help and it came
in the form of helping someone who didn’t know how to ask.
Because I learned that hurt inducts all painfolk as conspirators

in the craft of healing. Because sometimes simply surviving
is the pinnacle of human achievement, and enlightenment
is seeing the ability to live as all the reason I need to.
Because when ability isn’t enough, and neither mind

nor moan suffice, and I drink myself into a stupor,
the Earth will say come, rest, I’ll hold you while your better
and lesser halves have it out in you; and if neither wins,
if both lose, if you cool in the night and blue in the morning,

I’ll undress you until even your bones let go of the runes
I marked you with: the crooked nose, the vocal crimp,
the hopeful heart you broke and broke, getting
endlessly high on your inability to break it for good.

Ricky Ray is a disabled poet, critic, essayist, and the author of three books: Quiet, Grit, Glory (Broken Sleep Books, 2020), The Sound of the Earth Singing to Herself (Fly on the Wall Press, 2020) and Fealty (Diode Editions, 2019). He lives in the old green hills with his old brown dog, Addie.