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Monday, October 30, 2017


by Susan Vespoli

“The body of someone who has died from a suspected opioid overdose. In January, 2017, there were sixty-five overdose deaths in Montgomery County [Ohio]. At times, there has not been enough room at the morgue for all the bodies, and the county coroner has been obliged to rent space from local funeral homes and lease refrigerated trailers for more space.”  From “Faces of an Epidemic,” The New Yorker, October 30, 2017 issue. Photo by Philip Montgomery; text by Margaret Talbot.

    “I didn’t cause it, can’t control it, can’t cure it.” —Al-anon slogan

I tried to write a poem
about how the opioid epidemic
had stolen one of my children,
now an adult,
and how it threatens
like a terrorist
to take another,
about how there’s nothing
a mother can do but watch
the way a body thins, how teeth dissolve,
how beings disappear
from behind their own eyes:
the brown or green irises darkening,
the eyeballs resting
in more hollow sockets—
but the words, lines, stanzas
of my poem attempts
were all failures.

So instead I will tell about a golden hen
that appeared in my backyard
like magic
to stand on her four-prong-star feet,
her body an oval covered with feathers
a strawberry blond fluffy as fur
backlit by the sun
when she bent to sip water
from the pale green bowl
I’d placed beneath the Palo Verde tree.
At first she strutted like a little queen
around the center of the grassy expanse
surrounded by oleanders,
sort of haughty, wide-eyed, solo,
but then she began to trust me,
sidling up to my ankles,
saying bwak, bwak, bwak
like she had some news to share
and I grew to sort of love her.
Then one day, as it happens,
I looked for her and she was gone.

Susan Vespoli lives in Phoenix, AZ where the opioid epidemic is alive and well. Her work has been published in a variety of spots including Mom Egg Review, TheNewVerse.News, Write Bloody, and dancing girl press.