poetry

Why I Still Go To Meetings: Two Pieces

She Haunts Me

She haunts me. When the hunger is in me, I think of her.
The other day I saw a man with the hunger in his eyes. I was standing
outside the Bank of America, selling the Spare Change News. Two men came
up quickly, one man Black, one man white. The white man went into the bank
while the Black man stood outside and paced. At times he muttered to himself.
I could not make out much of the words. He was in a hurry and on his way even
while he was waiting.

The white man reappeared with a sheaf of twenties in his hand and
counted two or three off into the Black man’s hand. The hunger was beaming
from his eyes as the money hit his hand. He clutched it tightly and ran across
the street. I watched him disappear into the subway. I knew where he was
going.

Those of us with the hunger recognize each other.
I see her almost every day. I can tell you where she hangs out, which bar
she frequents. She always catches my eye.

Does she know that I watch her? Maybe, maybe not. People hand her
money, she disappears into the subway. She comes back and goes to the
saloon where they wait.

The relapse is in me. It waits for me, whispering into the ear of my mind,
and it wants to catch me in a weak moment.

She? She is tall, skin color of mixed blood, wears jeans, sometimes a
dress, sometimes a kerchief on her head. Short hair. There are freckles on her
face and she is almost pretty.

I once saw her drop two packets into the hands of a friend.
There are many things that I forget. Names. I hear them, suddenly they
are gone. Appointment times. I must write them on the calendar otherwise they
disappear. I will forget to stop at the store to pick up juice. My memory is
flawed.

My addiction is genius. Never forgets. This woman has stayed in my
memory since the summer of 1995, when she dropped two packets into the
hand of a friend, yet we have never spoken. She stands out in the crowd. I
watch her move down the street.

Suddenly, when she appears, all thoughts disappear from my mind. Only
the hunger remains. Sweet pestilence that rages through the ghettoes of my
mind. Sometimes I get so hungry that my bones ache. I taste the heroin in the
back of my throat, my body memory slaps my recovery down the street.
She haunts me. When the hunger is in me, I think of her.

What Brings Me Back To Hell

She haunts the dusty eye of my
mind swirling down the streets of Central
Square dope in her empty pockets she
can bring me nothing arching her
back like a cat she is one of us has
never left my sight closer than
I want she will always be
everywhere the only running is the option
of suicide who can tell the future relapse
is too close to think of it like
a vise it encircles my being there
will be no coming back she
sits in the bar and waits for me to
come to her it will not be long
until I am gone.

Talk to me of shadows I will
show you who
I was the light
will not shine through me when
I touch her hand.

What brings me back to hell
is the memory of heaven all
the gods are liars.

The Dangerous Ones

I was one of the dangerous ones.
Believed in love, that flowers
in the barrel of a gun would stop the bullets.
Believed that Peyote would sit
me down with Mescalito, that acid
was the frontier beyond dark
airless space, would breathe me
a new consciousness, that opium
dreams would water the desert of my
aching, bring flowers to my soul, rest
me when the asteroid storms would cloud
the interstellar space of the mind. There
was a time when any pad was home, we sat and smoked
marijuana on the seats
of our souls, only violence
was turned away at every door, anyone
else was welcome.

I was one of the dangerous
ones, sharing hope, drugs, gonorrhea,
needles with one and all, hepatitis
was only one by-product of hope. Believed
in costume, poetry, dancing on
moon-light beaches, Olatunji’s
drums of passion, flowers
growing in the dark. I heard
them all.

I was one of the dangerous
ones, believed down to
the splinters of my shaking
heart that peace was catching, it
would leap from soul to soul; all
we had to do was join hands, pass
the pipe, the only shotgun
we used was mouth to mouth
intimate smoke. We danced
as the barbed wire went up
around us, we knew that rust was real.

I was one, a dangerous
one, stumbled, took the wrong
yellow brick road, wandered
into the poppy fields of Oz, fell
dangerous sleep, thought dreams
were doom, lost in the television
land of heroin, situation horrors, dropped
my danger in the land of nod. Had a
hard return, held in the hand
of miracles, came to believe
that a power, a hope fiend, the right
word in place is a flower
in the barrel of. How do I
change the world, I begin
with me, found my danger
in the pocket of myself. Whipped
it out, dropped it on you
like I was Sandoz Pharmaceuticals
or Owsley Blue.

I’m dangerous as hell, I believe we
can change the world, bloom you
dangerous too; all flowers in the
barrel of a gun.

The Mistake

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and each time expecting a different result.”Common saying in the recovery community.

When I woke up I didn’t know what time it was, what day it was or what city I was in. A police officer is knocking on the window of my car. I startled and realize that I am sitting in the middle of a town road at a traffic light. His rapping increases in fury and his mouth is moving, flecks of saliva spray out on the window of my car. Then I hear him yelling. It is like my senses are coming back to me one by one. I move my hand and start to unroll the window and he reaches in, yanks the door handle and pulls me out of the car. “But wait,” I shout and he kicks me to the ground and one of my teeth chips off on the asphalt beneath me. I can feel the blood running out of my lip as my hands are pinned behind my back and the cold metal cuffs click into place.

I know I am under arrest for something; the charges would unfold later. I wonder where the drugs are, if I have any left, or if I will get a chance to do any before they are found. As two other police cars whine to a stop the cop jerks me to my feet, pushes me against a police car and pats me down. The dark of the early morning beats against the sky. Only maniacs, beasts, thieves and drug addicts (who are composites of the previous three) are up at this time of day. And of course, police, whose job it is to protect people like you from people like me. One of the police takes my keys from the ignition while I watch and opens the trunk and that is when I remember where I was going. The expression on his face changes when he sees the body in the trunk. “But I can explain,” I scream and one of the officers turns to me and says, “I’ll bet you can,” and suddenly the facts seem bizarre even to me and Mickey was too stiff to tell the tale.

When Mickey’s heart exploded the stem of the crack pipe was still wedged between his lips. He hit the floor and never went so far or to no place at all. That’s what they told me. I came flying into the dope house hot to fix with the monkey screaming my name backwards and they were shoving Mickey into the refrigerator because they didn’t have a clue as to what to do with the body and the pipe was still going around and no one wanted to stop to figure it out because, let’s face it, priority one is, when the pipe is going around — whether your lips are on it or your eyes are on it and fuck anything else. The good side of this was that there was nothing in the fridge. The bad side of it was that the electric was shut off and the body wouldn’t keep for long. Anyway, I didn’t think those thoughts until later because my mind was on the primary, that is getting this dope into my vein where it belonged because this monkey had its hand on my balls. I spit some bile into the sink, filled a glass half full of water and went into the bathroom to fix. I would have fixed right in the kitchen but the on button for my asshole was on monkey-time and I yanked my pants down just in time.

That’s the only reason I wear jockey shorts, so I don’t have to throw away my trousers every day.

Anyway I fixed and then, I’m not sure how much time had passed, I heard some asshole asking me for my cotton shot. I looked into the watery eyes of Mike da Leech and didn’t want to put up with two hours of whining and pleading so I just pushed the cooker over to him. “Uh, can I use your works too?” he asked. I rolled my eyes and pushed the water glass with the blood-filled rig sitting in it over to him. I left the bathroom and went back to the kitchen where a discussion was in progress as to what to do with what once was Mickey who was not referred to as “the body in the fridge.”

That was when someone came up with the bright idea to let me take it because I was the only one there at the time with a car. “Hey, forget about it, the fucker was dead when I walked in.” I was adamant about not wanting to take on the burden and then I went into the living room to catch a nod.

Three days later, out of dope, with the monkey tickling my sphincter with a soddering iron, it seemed like a good idea to take the body because all the SSI checks had come in and everyone had chipped in to score me a brick of dope to take the body. They agreed that having a body in the refrigerator that didn’t work in a dope house was a bad idea. The only thing I wanted to do was fix a right proper amount before I took the body and I might have taken a little too much to stay awake behind the wheel and that’s why I nodded off at the traffic light at 4 in the morning. Which brings me back to this spot, cuffed and stuffed into the back of a Judas car and charged with possession of heroin, hypodermics, and the body of what was once a crackhead named Mickey.

First let me tell you the good news. The police were so excited about the body that they didn’t find the heroin that was in the seam of my shirt and when they put me in the holding cell I snorted three bags before they came running in. The bad news was I forgot about the goddamn suicide cameras that they installed in all the holding cells and they had me as the star of my own Saturday Night Live tv show.

I don’t regret snorting the bags. My mistake was that I should have waited until they moved me out into population. Maybe my mistake was doing so much before I left the dope house. Maybe I shouldn’t have decided to take the body after all. But hey, I was dopesick. Fifty bags for moving a body from one place to another isn’t bad payment. What the fuck, wouldn’t you have done it too?

After all was said and done I took two, 2 and 1/2 year bids, to run on and after, which means consecutively instead of concurrently, but I made parole after doing just three years. I learned a lot from my mistakes and my whole attitude has changed. I’m going to get a straight job. No more hustling, maybe find a good woman and settle down. I’m never going to go back to jail again. I’ll get started on my new life right away. But first I’m going to go out and cop just one good high. After doing three years on chump charges, I owe it to myself, don’t I? I’m just going to do it differently this time. You’ll see.

The Bicycle Ride

She thought it was a beautiful bicycle
knew she wanted to ride it
gently touched the tubing
hard carbon steel
wrapped her fingers around it
stroked it
then threw her leg
over to straddle it

It felt good between her legs
she pumped
the pedals and began to move
her seat felt a little uncomfortable
with the newness of it
she wiggled around on it
till it fit right

It was better than she remembered it
doing it outdoors
somehow doing it indoors
in front of a tv set
just wasn’t as exciting

pumping furiously
wind blowing her hair
sweat beading on her face
and dripping down her hot body

She became lost in the riding
and could feel every bump
every ripple
faster and faster
and throwing her arms
into the air
she screamed out,
“Look ma, no hands!”

An Ode To The Kids Who Tried To Steal My Bicycle, Failed Miserably, And Wrecked It At The Train Station In Gloucester

Grey. Not the sky but the bicycle
left locked. If the iron rails might
talk, or the crosswise snitch, or the bicycle
be gifted with tongues, a broken
mouth cursing from a beaten frame
warped by shod feet, the rider
could know who to hate. The lock

was too good for these shrunken
minds. A good thief takes
or leaves it alone. Fools frustrated
by their own limits kick, bend,
render the bicycle useless as
their wits. Grey. The night

hiding reptilian idiots in frenzy
spending the remnants of their
fury at their own ineptitude destroying
what they cannot take. Greased
hands, they return home to parents
who plan to deny them sooner

than anyone can see it coming.
“Boy,” the father thinks as his
son walks in the door, “the best
part of you dripped down your
mother’s thigh.” Grey. The bicycle
lock won’t be the last obstacle

to defeat these bastard children.

Death Trippin’

written at Worcester House of Correction 1982—83

Late last night I scored a bag of dope
When my spirit is low it gives me hope
I emptied it into my faithful spoon
But it sparkled like the stars in the evening’s noon
I thought for a minute that I was beat
Shot it anyway and leaped to my feet
My heart was racing, couldn’t catch my breath
It wasn’t smack; it was crystal meth
I’m not complainin’, don’t get me wrong
Just rushin’ like a jet stream, comin’ on strong.

Nothing like the glass to straighten your hair
And give your eyes that demonic stare
Just then this chump knocked at my door
I let him in; he was lookin’ to score
So I turned him on to a cotton shot
He started sweatin’, a heavyweight he’s not
He said, “What the fuck man, this ain’t junk”

I said, “you’re right dude, but it ain’t bunk
That’s crystal meth that you just did”
He was runnin’ around, just flippin’ his lid
I guess he’d never done any real speed
I thought it was righteous and he agreed

We hit the streets and started to stalk
Flyin’ high on this eternal walk
Everything was closed; the streets were dead
But the electrons were dancing; in my head

Two days later I came back down
After raging around that goddamn town
Now I was lookin’ in earnest for some smack
My mind was blown; I couldn’t get back
Then I saw my connection walkin’ down the street
He was just the one I was lookin’ to meet
Handed me the bag; said it was real fine shit

I cooked it up and then did my hit
It came on slow but I reached the height
Hey, who the fuck turned out the light
I’m sinkin’ fast; am I gonna die

Who gives a shit; I’m gettin’ high
Some people think I’m on a real death trip
Well, I am tryin’ to give this world the slip
You think I’m wrong; do you have the cure
That’ll fix this pain in my heart for sure

One thing I know, Heroin’s the best
For nullifying the hurt that’s in my chest
And if one day I find death’s sweet sleep
Just dig a hole and bury me deep
And if you’d like to join me in my tomb
You bring the junk, I’ll make some room.

 

 

High Hopes

High Hopes

while in Worcester House of Correction, MA, USA, 1982-83 from the book Poison Pen, Flower Day Productions

Just passin’ through this goddamn state
and don’t ya know it’d be my fate
to get popped with fifteen pounds of grass
Into Worcester House they placed my ass
All because someone dropped a dime
Everybody’s tokin’ but it’s still a crime
I was just a merchant but I’m doin’ time
in steel and stone writin’ perverted rhyme
You think this country would take a tip
and legalize that shit and finally get hip
The weed is here and it’s here to stay
Millions are smokin’ to brighten up their day
They got red bud, green bud and Columbian gold
America’s lit up, both young and old
People are smokin’ all over the street
Even cops are stoned while they walk their beat
I know plenty of farmers growin’ that cash crop
and there ain’t no law that’s gonna make them stop
Where there’s demand there’s gonna be supply
And one-third of America’s gettin’ high
They can lock us up but not the smoke
Right now there’s millions just takin’ a toke
And while I’m here just rappin’ these tales
On Boston Harbour they’re unloadin’ bales
And there’s barns all over filled with that green
And dealers out hustlin’ to make their scene
Now when I get out I’ll be ready to roll
I’ll smoke a few joints and light up my soul
And there’ll be the day when we’ll all be free
So stop on by and cop a buzz from me
The Lord made weed so we all could fly
So love your brothers and sisters and get them high!

How I Grew Up And Learned To Be A Racist


I grew up in a white factory town until I was 10. My father had a small grocery store in Newark, New Jersey and his customers were all Black people. My parents had a term that they referred to Black people while they were in the house. They called them Schvartze’s, pronounced Schvat-Suh, and they claimed not to be racist. Yet they were and I was adopted into thinking that I wasn’t racist but, in the meantime, I was being taught racism.

I remember one night, when Eisenhower was running for president, I was with a group of my white friends and they saw a person of Color going into my house. One of the guys said, “what’s that “Jungle-Bunny” doing going into your house?’ I had never heard that term before and I told them that it was the man who worked in my father’s store.

Racism was rampant when I was growing up and it seeped into my mind’s eye and my attitude. Yet, I thought I wasn’t a racist. But I was one. I had no conception of what it was to grow up Black in the inner city. I did notice that the factory town I grew up in was almost all White and I heard the word “nigger” bandied about by the kids I hung out with.

I just received a book in the mail yesterday called “So You Want To Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo and it is an eye-opener. I won’t go into a review of it at this time because I’ve only read three chapters of it. But it exposes me and outs me as a racist and calls into question my commonly held beliefs as to what is racist. I admit that I’m changing but I don’t really know, first-hand, the reality of being Black in the world because I’m White.

My parents moved into a suburban town when I was 10 and there were no Black people, that I know of, that lived there. Prejudice was rampant among the kids I hung out with and some of them were even gay-bashers as teenagers. At the time I felt there was something wrong with that but queers were queer, right? I got into hard drugs while I was in high school, beginning with the opiates. It took me to places that I never thought I’d go and I remember, one time copping heroin in Newark, New Jersey, which was only 7 short but eternal miles from Livingston where I lived.

This guy, Joey who I was copping with had grown up in Newark and we picked up this Black guy and his friend who were taking us to buy heroin. The Black guy turned to me and said, “Heroin is the great equalizer. Black or White, we become the enemy of society.” That really struck me and I’ve never forgotten it.

I remember times, when my friend and I were cruising the streets of Newark and we saw this unmarked cop car stop by a bar where a bunch of Black guys were hanging out front and the three white cops, dressed in plain clothes and long leather jackets flipped their coats open and two of them had shotguns and they lined the Black guys up against the wall of the bar and were frisking them. Why was this happening? I never saw this happen in front of a bar when all white guys were hanging out, that’s for sure.

In my racist mind, this was something I couldn’t process very well. I just knew that we had to flee that area because I didn’t want any attention drawn to us. After all, we were heroin addicts and probably had more of a criminal bent than some to those guys being frisked by the White cops that actually looked more like gangsters than the Black guys they were shaking down. Sometimes I copped in Harlem and was always nervous, more like afraid, but the drugs were running my life and I let my racism slide to get the drugs. Then there was that special night where 4 White kids, all about the age of nineteen, went to Paterson, New Jersey to buy drugs. We were all juiced on what we called goofballs (barbiturates) and wanted some heroin to straighten us out.

Three of the guys went off and I was waiting in the parking lot of a store when all of a sudden I was surrounded by 4 or 5 Black guys and they were asking me for money. I looked around for my associates (not necessarily friends) and they were nowhere to be seen. I broke bad with these Black cats and tried not to show my fear (and prejudice) but this was their land I was the trespasser and all of a sudden I was being hit and went down and they were kicking the living shit out of me. After all, I wasn’t giving up my dope money; I was just the dope isolated on their streets. They must have knocked me unconscious because all of a sudden there were cops all around and the Black guys were running.

The cops caught a Black guy and asked me if he was one of the ones who was beating on me. I didn’t have a clue and I didn’t really recognize him but I was so angry and full of hate that I said, “yes, that was one of them.” The cops took me down to the station and had the Black guy alone in a room, no lineup thank you very much. They asked me again if that was one of the guys and, to tell the truth, I had no idea but I pointed at him with one of my eyes closed and said yes that was one of them. The guys I went with were waiting at my car and even with one eye closed I insisted on driving home. I was furious and full of hate and that night I used the N word for the first time that I could remember and I blamed all Black people for what happened to me. Suddenly I was a full-blown racist.

I had to be hospitalized because the lower rim of my right eye was shattered and they needed to remove the pieces and place a plastic rim in my face. My head ached for almost six months because of the beating and I was full of hate. I testified in court against the Black guy who I wasn’t even sure was the one and he wound up being sentenced to three months in jail for something he might not have done. I’ve grown up a lot since then and I realize that I was taught racism undercurrents my whole life and all it took was that event to make it blossom. I had no idea what it was like to grow up Black in an inner city and be poor and oppressed because of the color of my skin. My understanding of my racism has grown and I have worked on my ignorant prejudices until I have come almost full circle on race hate.

I realize that we are all people struggling with our different crosses to bear and my ignorance has changed to enlightenment. Am I still prejudiced? Well, we don’t change ingrained belief systems overnight and I do the best I can with it. I pray that my mind doesn’t let me slip back into old thought patterns. I was my worst enemy and, over the years, I have changed the way I see things. Am I still a racist is the question I have to always ask myself. If I catch that ugliness creeping into my thoughts I send those thoughts packing. I meditate. I feel empathy. I do the best I can under the circumstances that have shaped me. I need to always face the truth about myself, what ever it may be.

Back In The Days of Old School Crime

When I heard the news about James “Whitey” Bulger being savagely killed in his new prison in West Virginia, it came as no surprise. For years he ratted on the New England Mafia to increase his own organization of crime’s control of the Boston area.

I grew up in New Jersey and started using cough syrup with codeine and antihistamines when I was about fifteen years old. By the time I was 17, I was using heroin on a daily basis. Back then there were no police Tip Lines. But if you were outed as a Rat or an informer, you were likely to get what we called a “hot shot.”

Street justice was swift and merciless. Two off my associates died of a poisoned heroin shot. The old time junkies would scrape the white powder from the battery cables of a car. It looked just like junk but it was pure acid. Some people got rat poison mixed with their dose if they turned when the police picked them up.

In West Orange, New Jersey, there was this detective called Palardy. When he picked people up, he would bring them to the police station and put them in a room, pull the shades down and beat them around the body and slam a telephone book on their heads.

During my first drug bust, when I had just turned 18, I was arrested with a Dyke named Angie and we were both holding. They took me into that room and beat me for a while and then I gave them old information that I knew they already had to stop the beating. They weren’t satisfied and threw me in a holding cell next to Angie.

This wasn’t Angie’s first rodeo and they knew she was a hard case so they didn’t beat her. I heard her calling to me and asking me if I was all right. I told her that I didn’t give anyone up but myself. Back then we actually had mattresses in our holding cells and Angie said, “You’re about to smell smoke.” And she lit her mattress on fire.

James “Whitey” Bulger was beaten by two Mafiosi to the point where he was unrecognizable. One suspect is Fotios “Freddy” Geas who is doing a lifetime bid for murdering a head of the Genovese Mob in 2003. They hailed from West Springfield, MA so they were local and had a major grudge against Bulger. According to the prison officials Bulger’s body was wrapped in a sheet and unrecognizable. How could this happen in the prison system? Well, transferring a high profile rat to another prison and putting him in general population is like signing the death sentence that he never received.

Back in the day, when I did time I was being held in Maximum Security in West Boylston, MA . We were two to a one man cell. The new guy slept on the floor on a mattress and the senior cell citizen slept on a bunk. I had two choices where to put my head. One choice was by the bars of the cell and the other was by the toilet. As unpleasant as that might seem the toilet was the better choice because if your head was by the bars, you could be fair game to anyone who didn’t like you. Now when I got popped in Massachusetts with 15 pounds of reefer and a little heroin and some hashish and cocaine, not to mention the weighing scales and the hypodermic needles, they threw all the charges at me and I was even charged with harboring a fugitive because my woman back then was wanted in two states.

But it was an honorable crime, as they call it in prison. I was all over the news, both television and radio. The police said they had arrested a major drug kingpin but I never saw myself like that. I had a history of arrests for simple possession of heroin, which was why I sold marijuana. I didn’t care for reefer so I didn’t use my profits smoking it up. Getting back to the honorable crime situation, I didn’t rat anyone out and I knew I was going to do my time. My first cellmate was transferred when his case came up and a new guy was transferred to my cell. The first question anyone asks when they come in is “what are you in for?”

The new guy told me he was in for receiving stolen goods and I took him at his word. But in prison, everyone has a story, some true, some not so true. The next day one of my associates on the Maxi-tier came into my cell during open door time, which was about 2 and 1/2 hours every night after supper.

He told me that the guards had tipped them that the guy in my cell was in for rape of a child and the guards gave the leaders of the tier a carton of cigarettes, major currency back then, and told them, “you know what to do with this guy.” He asked me if I wanted to take part but I opted out and told them to do what they had to do. A little while after I left that cell, three guys came in and beat the guy so bad they had to take him to the hospital. The guards, who we called “screws” back then, took their time coming in to break it up.

When I think about that and the transfer of James “Whitey” Bulger to a new prison and placing him in general population, I feel that they did this on purpose. It served to have the proper, as they saw it, justice finally administered to a guy who got away with murder because he was a major rat. Justice was done all old school and, in my twisted mind, I know that Whitey was set up deliberately.

Whitey should have known, and probably did know, that he was being transferred to another prison and put in general population so he would be given the death sentence that Rats get when they break the code. Like I said before, this was all old school. When I was a young junkie, I knew better than to break the code. No tip lines, and the police were always the enemy back then. Some things change and some things don’t change. Are things better in today’s world? I think not. And for old guys like me, it’s still old school. You don’t have to like it, it’s just the way it was—and in some cases, it still is that way.