In the Midst of the Heroin Epidemic
When I heard the news that Cynthia’s daughter
had died, all alone, slumped over on the ground
beside a dumpster behind the convenience store
where she’d made her final buy, I logged off, and
walked outside to look at the water before I could think
too much. It’s become a habit now—losing myself
in the soothing image of moving water before the headlines
and the stats start blaring out the way they do—performing
themselves inside my mind that has always imagined
too vividly too much… You think too much, my parents
always said. But thinking about this, or not thinking
won’t reverse the events that have captured Cynthia
or bring back the daughter who’s been carried away
in an opening chapter of a terrible plot. Addicts destroy
themselves—that’s just where we start. And why
they might have wanted to, or if it was an accident
is beside the point… The aftermath is what’s at stake.
The human flotsam captured in addiction’s filthy wake.
Ordinary citizens like Cynthia with her stone face
and her dead blue eyes. Single mother of one child,
deceased. She works at the bakery down the block
from me. I pay her for a cappuccino and a buttered roll
every morning on my way to work. Afterwards,
I linger on the wooden pier, and drown my eyes
in the river’s watery embrace, and lick butter
from my fingers, and fill my head with the strong smell
of hot coffee Cynthia poured for me. Small actions
that distract. They minimize, but can’t efface,
any of the suffering.
Copyright (c) 2018 by Kate Daniels. All rights reserved. Kate Daniels is the author of five collections of poetry, including Four Testimonies and A Walk in Victoria’s Secret. She lives in Nashville, where she directs the creative-writing program at Vanderbilt University. “In the Midst of the Heroin Epidemic” will appear in her forthcoming collection, In the Months of My Son’s Recovery, which will be published by Louisiana State University Press on May 15, 2019.