Who am I

By Jill M. Talbot

“And if you are not a bird, then beware of coming to rest above an abyss.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Not an addict but
a deflowered thorn,
a queen of spades
with a punch-hole.
A birthday present
unwrapped too quickly.
Not a junkie but
someone who’s put hope
in the washer and dryer.
Not a joy-popper.
Not a dope fiend.
Not a candy nerd at war
with counterpart colours.
Not a career user but
a deferred dream.
Not the twin of Narcissus.
Not a mirror image.
Not the puddle growing
like a fetus. Not a junkie.
Not denial. Not a river
but a stream looking
for an ocean. Not your business.
Not a bookmark but an explosive.
Not fentanyl. Not death, not the end.
Not a piece of shit. Not gum pressed flat
under the desk. Not cancer.
Not your fucking alarm clock.
Not a dream. Not a dragon but a friend.
Not a disease but a blanket.
Not an alarm but a lullaby.
Not an addict but a war plane flying
through friendlier skies.
Not your fucking smart watch.
Not dope, not dealers,
not my life, not me.
Not a junkie.
Not an addict.
Not me.

Author Statement

This is a response to a recent opinion piece suggesting that to overcome the opioid epidemic we must change our language. People aren’t addicts, they have substance misuse disorders. I don’t recall this type of thinking during the crack epidemic. I think too often we take it on as our identity. For many people I know, they wouldn’t want that taken from them. To take that away would be to take everything. As for those who don’t want to be aligned with us, I don’t know what to tell them. I hope my poem shows my ambivalence either way.

On a separate note, none of the pieces on the opioid epidemic have addressed the causes. The causes aren’t in our language, doctors, pharmaceutical companies or even Trump. I hope too to show what we aren’t looking at. And maybe our attempt to create euphemisms is a part of that

Jill M. Talbot‘s writing has appeared in the FiddleheadGeistRattlePRISMThe Stinging Fly, and others. Jill won the PRISM Grouse Grind Lit Prize. She was shortlisted for a Matrix Lit POP Award and the Malahat Review Far Horizons Award. Jill lives in Vancouver, B.C.

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