(What We Were)

I know you stole
my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Super Nintendo game.

But your brother died from cancer,
your mother, father, uncle — maybe,
maybe you — and everyone
else you love have cancer.
You, your sister and your sister (and
your daddy with his black magic medical box
with the infinite click line
of feel-good shots) are junkies
and your mother doesn't cook the family dinner
like she used to anymore.

So now just doesn't feel
like the time to ask for it back.

And I probably won't.
It's about time you got something
you actually wanted. Unlike the herpes
that Salina girl gave you,
even though you didn't ask for them.

But looking back I wonder
if you wouldn't take them willingly
just because she felt so good
at the time and I don't think many things
do that for you anymore.

I remember a day of walking
down small town street gutters
with you telling me how
you can decide not to feel pain
if you just hold your thoughts
in your brain the right way.
Only — you sounded articulate
when you explained it and your father is a
fragile twig-man who bends when you breathe
too close and I felt like you
were telling me his funeral preparations.

When we were children
we didn't know words like these;
we only knew how to grow
desperate with imagination
and how to bring our ideas into creation —
like how your hand could turn into a bird
if you needed it to.

We needed a lot of things then.

So we faked sick to feel the taste
of grape cough syrup on our tongues,
because we liked it and it made us feel good,
even when we felt good to begin with
and that was what we were about then.

Maybe we're still about that,
even if you don't fake sick
to get your drugs anymore,
taking an eight day speed trip
where your parents don't know where you go
and they don't ask, because they know:
you're just trying to leave the things growing in them
and they want a way for you to get away too.

So I don't know if heroin helps,
but if it makes you think it does
— it's done enough.
I just hope it hasn't done too much and I
hope that every time I think about you
and wonder if you're still alive.

(Last Edit: 4/12/09)