If Your Addiction Was a Poem

If your addiction was a poem,
I’d edit your mugshot the way I edit my poetry—
after the fact.
After the chaos is already ink stained
into the notebook fibers of your storyline.
I’d scratch out the lines of you taking lighter to spoon
and erase your name from the local news.
People will see evidence of error on the page,
but they’ll notice it’s been corrected and replaced
because I’d write you better ways to cope
that don’t involve coke and glass
or lighting up heroin in a Gatorade bottle cap.

If your addiction was a poem,
I’d turn it into personification—
give it human traits
to remind myself of the person
underneath the mistakes.
I’d start all over, flip you to a fresh page.
Sometimes I just need to walk away
from a poem, or you, for a few days,
so my patience can reset itself
and make sense of this all with fresh eyes
so I can better decide
which of my words have potential
and which are a lost cause.
Excuse my paradox,
but I want you to resist the irresistible temptation
of putting more track marks in your arms.

If your addiction was a poem,
I’d turn it into every metaphor, like—
Addiction is a bungee cord.
Or addiction is a zipline over mountains.
I know the drugs promised you pretty views,
but the rush is so short and the free fall so long.
The only way to stop it all
is to cut yourself loose and drop
to rock bottom.

If your addiction was a poem,
I’d add more commas,
more semicolons, more periods,
more places built in for you to pause.
I’d punctuate your days strategically
and write you more apostrophes
so you could take ownership of your life.
To say that I’ve nightmared
about your funeral over a million times
is not hyperbole.
To say I want this time around
to be the beginning of the end
is not a figure of speech.
I want to remove any rhyme scheme,
because patterns don’t suit you.
I want you to live a poetic life,
and I do mean that figuratively.
When nothing seems to rhyme,
when there is no rhythm or beat,
I want you to remember decisions don’t delete.

If your addiction was a poem,
I’d have a collection big enough to turn anthology,
but publication can be so permanent
and I’ve been writing out my worries
between your arrests,
not sure if you are more ode or elegy
and sometimes tricking myself into caring less.
You were always so free verse
and me more haiku.
I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to remove
the alliteration from you,
the way you keep repeating your redos
again and again, redundant like these lines
I’ve been turning you into.
Your trauma has intertwined itself
between the stanzas of my life
where I spend day after day
censoring the audience from the damage
your addiction has made.
I’ve been hiding the ripple effects of your struggles
behind metaphors about bad habits,
while others turned your problems into clichés
about rock bottoms and calms before storms,
something about time healing all wounds.

If your addiction was a poem,
I would have read you closer.
I would have read you again and again.
I would have never kept your struggles
like secrets as similes in my sonnets.
If your addiction was a poem,
I’d black it out with imagery
of us from 20 years ago
playing in our rollerblades.
You were going too fast downhill
and wrecked into me,
leaving us both with scrapes
too big for bandaids.

The end of the poem
is where the punchline lives.
The end of the poem is where I realize,
not much has changed.
Your problems are still wrecking into me,
and our wounds are still too big for bandaids.

If your addiction was a poem,
this would be called “Part I.”
If your addiction was a poem,
the writing may never be done.
You are still free falling
from the zip line,
waiting to hit rock bottom for years.
If your addiction was a poem,
it would not end here.

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