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You think: Where was I when all these dead were dying, dropping
off and piling up?
                                  Andy  C. you  knew  since  sporting  chains in
junior  high.  Slit the  back of a  Fentanyl  patch to get at  the inside.
Time released all at once.  Maybe you  were tapping after snapping
a vial, copped from a girl whose guy got slick,  swiped some  boxes
from a truck. Around the time the towers came down, because you
were   still   living  in   The  Bricks,   and   despite  the  nights’  new
elevations you’d only begun to get the taste.
                                                                        Amanda  K.  and  Josh
P., lingering  from way back, each  in a car and shouldn’t  have  been.
You    down   in   some  city,    blacking  out   and   tripping   through
windows, waking up  swollen and scarred, getting a  dollar any  way
you could to keep it going.
                                          Carrie  with  the  lip  ring  and  razorblade
grin, who told you once, while you were getting right at the kitchen
table,  her  mom  disowned  her  because she  liked girls  and dope,
said, because  the devil  done got  hold of me by the ankle.  Maybe
while she  choked  in  that  upstairs  room  you  and  your girl  were
sticking  up  your dealer  with a steak  knife or  stripping seals  from
CD cases to unload up the road, after a three-for-twenty or a single
          Fawzaan, always  falling out, behind the wheel at a four-way
stop,  in  a corner, on a couch—couldn’t come back  from  the  last
one. Joey B. with the busted teeth, maybe laid flat while you were
towing  cars on a  quick  lick  to  that  shady ass  scrapyard  across
town,  or  reviving  Kyle  in  the  bathroom,  smacking  around  his
naked  lank, splashing  him with cold water—Don’t you  fuckin’ die
in  my  house—getting  him  to suck some air, waiting  to see he’d
come  out of  it crying  like  a child so you  could  leave  him  there,
sheet-wrapped and wet  while you  snatched  the  last of his stash.
Didn’t even  think,  It could  be  bad  batch,  before  ducking  to the
bedroom, taking the shot that almost took him down.
                                                                                            That   kid
Kurt you  turned  on  first  so  you could  dip  in.  Where was  I, you
think, when he turned up face down by a wife who never knew the
truth?  Maybe   with  your   girl,  the   one   who   worked  for   the
phone-sex  line, trading  hot words and heavy breath in a back seat
for  a   few   balloons,  while   you  hit   up  front   and   felt   numb.
                                                                                  And how many
others,  picked  off  while  you  faked  interest  in  pictures  of  your
friend’s  friend’s cat, distraction  while  he  emptied  the  medicine
cabinet,  crotching  a  bag  of  rigs  and  a  month’s  supply  of  the
morphine that  helped  her cope with the cancer, killing her, you in
your own way dying.
                                        But you’d go on  living and  wonder why.
Jesse  and  Steve  and  Tami J.  never  could  get  a  grip  but you
somehow could. And you still wonder and can’t take the worn out
platitudes in the rooms, about God’s divine hand. He wasn’t done
with you yet—as if the  rest were just expendable. He’s got other
plans for you—as if their purpose had been served, time used  up.
The nerve it takes to say such things, and to believe them.
who was always Danni. You knew her from a damn-near baby. Got
so strung out she strung herself up in a closet far away from home,
fields stretched out around her.  And Donnie, whom  you only met
once  but whose  light was among  the  brightest, taken out  like a
heel-snuffed ember. Matt, who died on Christmas  in a parking  lot.
                   Aunt Dee-Dee  had a whole life, kids, was a wife, and
then traded it all for a fast slide down a slim glass pipe, then some
kind of cocktail, keeping her sleeping when she should have  woke
up.   Maybe   when   you   were  looting   your   in-laws—jewelry,
antiques,  whatever  you could  hock for a South Side rock.  Or by
then  sitting  on  your  rack  down on  the  compound,  that  joint
surrounded by fences and hills, bitting, flexing, waiting to ride out.
Paying that debt that would never be paid.
                                                                    He works in mysterious
ways, they tell you. Robbie and Katie and Crazy Ray. They say, It’s
for  Him to  understand  and  us  to trust.  Lance and  Adam. Some
aren’t  meant for  this world.  Your  man Taz and Christina from the
Heights.  They’re  in a  better  place. You  let  the  words, so  many
words, come at you.  You  let  them  land  and roll off.  Nikki. Denis.
Eddie T.
       You think: All gone. 
                                                 And I’m still here.

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