vodka

as your morning shot
went down
                        the blood came up
thick as the whole milk you drank after work,
red-blue like a bruise.

in the ER, your male nurse believed in Jesus:
you are so young, hijo.
with the patience of a saint, he
tried to feed a tube
                through your nose.
slithering like a body-cavity serpent, it was looking
for a home in your blood-flooded   stomach.
you teared and tore the snake away.

i’d seen you cry many times,
but never so pale.         i expected
the I.V. to redden your skin as the clear
fluid filled the tributaries.
                                            you were being cleaned
where i could not wash.

when we met,               you
were searching for     something.
i said, “look
                                here is a mirror.”
you blurred passed your reflection to mine.
i thought, am i not a bodhitsattva,
the soul    motivated by compassion
                to enlightenment      for the good of all?

                                                                 you
were all the fatherless sons          you
were every abandoned dog         you
were what i could not accept about
                                                                myself:

somewhat of an addict,
                                 a sun’s fire in my
solar plexus, such a hot, searing circle
burning for touch         i could not be alone,
like the year-old pit bull we adopted.
                                  her downward brows
were yours in our window                        at 4am
i left you across town.
                                                     for the time being you’d
stopped drinking on doctor’s orders
amphetamine, benzodiazepine, diacetylmorphine
instead.

i always wanted to be in love with an addict,
                                            and half become one myself.
i ingested half of what you had, though your half
was                           whole                                      to me.

on the third day       you were released. we
fought before you even came home, over
the phone:
                i cried on the porch in the first week
of march                                     saying, you’ll
trade it for meds!            you           were just thinking
about coming home. let’s leave this alone.

coming close to death wasn’t going to cure you,
                 i knew. love has to come from the desire
to be alive: i wanted you to have mine.
a poisoned well,                                              the fumes
were words you spoke: puffs of                i love you
too noxious to inhale,                                  the gaseous
self-loathing suffocated every syllable.
finally, you swallowed a lit match.

all your years of
                calling to God
                               requesting death
must have helped the vodka
burn through your throat,                       separating
trachea from esophagus.

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