(after President #45’s response to America’s drug addiction & opioid crisis)
Lisa, the most beautiful cousin,
the 80s flip of dark blonde hair,
shiny cotton candy lip gloss,
tight striped sweater,
squeezing 7-year-old me in that Polaroid,
my wild curly ‘fro against her cheek,
she had an even, radiant smile,
while I was missing four teeth. With her,
I knew I could be beautiful too.
We should have just told her not to do drugs.
Her brain fried like that egg
in a hard iron skillet,
her goodness cooked in grease,
congealed in a trip that went on and on. . .
Yes, we should have just told her not to do drugs.
until she’s behind the wheel
of an old Pontiac,
a caped devil
on the windshield
See that knife
she’s the one
who told your mother you need
To be controlled.
Grandpop caught her raised hand,
the knife fell to the floor
spun on the linoleum
until the point
facing my mother.
We should have just told her to stop doing drugs.
We thought she might stop
when she got pregnant,
but the devil didn’t go away,
so we paid to make that baby gone.
And the next one
and the one after that.
The doctor said Baby #6 had to stay.
We bought little socks and hats.
If we would have just told her to stop doing drugs,
the caped men
wouldn’t have been out to kill
her and her baby,
wouldn’t have been
thrust thirty-one times
into Aunt Rosie’s flesh,
wouldn’t have been on our porch
madly ringing the bell
into the night.
When the madmen of nightmares
claim a seat at the table
with their liquid talk
and canned solutions
offering only expired
thoughts and prayers,
we lay floral arrangements
white lilies and chrysanthemums
on the graves of all we’ve lost.
I wrote this poem in response to the American government's response to drug and opioid addiction in our country, particularly in working class communities like mine. Growing up in the 80s, I watched President Reagan's "war on drugs" through those terrible commercials of frying eggs, and we were told in school to "just not do drugs." Our current president is now touting the same mantra without any effort to diagnose or even acknowledge the poor social conditions that often lead to drug addiction. And broken families are left in the wake of their inaction.
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Christine Taylor, a multiracial English teacher and librarian, resides in her hometown, Plainfield, New Jersey. She serves as a reader and contributing editor at OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters. Her work appears in Modern Haiku, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Rumpus, Eclectica, and the Paterson Literary Review, among others. She can be found at www.christinetayloronline.com.