CEMETERY SAINT LOUIS
that your body is able to fit into my eye, O that
the airplane that carries your body over oceans
fits into my eye, O that the ocean itself fits into
my eye, all of it, today, has made me unholy . . .
& that tomb behind your eyes, did someone
dump her purse out on it, did someone empty
his pockets, line all his pennies up on that little
ledge? I see an inhaler. A metro card. A lipstick.
A tiny bottle of Bacardi (emptied). A bouquet of
white flowers (plastic). Mardi Gras beads (broken).
A cigarette (half-smoked). A key. A cork. A pencil.
Three x’s (XXX) scrawled everywhere, on every
tomb. Now we have only three choices—DOOR
NUMBER ONE, DOOR NUMBER TWO, DOOR
NUMBER THREE: Behind DOOR NUMBER ONE
is a hammer, to break the wings off angels. Behind
DOOR NUMBER TWO is a fistful of painkillers &
the story I tell about how sad I am. Behind DOOR
NUMBER THREE a tiny king gives me a tiny coin for
every day I don’t drink—Hold it beneath your tongue,
he orders, until it dissolves. O look, some of these
little houses are now just piles of rubble, while some
have been rebuilt & whitewashed, just like the city
outside these walls, parts of it still (still?) underwater—
O let’s listen to the storm on the radio again, O let’s
look at the people on their roofs, the word HELP
written out in trash. Think of this as a city for everyone
you’ve ever loved, think of it as a gift you don’t know
how to open. O Carcass, I tell myself, you would
tremble if you knew where I was carrying you next.
Here’s the me breathing into the you & here’s the you
breathing into the me & here’s the trembling & here’s
the chalice & the only way out is to make sin holy.
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
A child (somewhere) squats, scratches / the dirt with a twig, muttering broken
broken / broken muttering an excellent place to hide / an excellent hole a hidey-
hole, a spider hole, the hole she / will crawl into or through one day, not /
today, thank god, not yet, she can’t know yet / each hole is a word, each word /
a thread. Let’s try this again, without / the child this time—broken broken broken /
no sun today, no shadow. Tiring / isn’t it, this kneeling, lips pressed to / the side-
walk, whispering into a crack. Yesterday / it all seemed normal, Brooke Adams
says / to Donald Sutherland, as he drives her to / the psychiatrist—today every-
thing seemed the same / but it wasn’t. Brooke didn’t know, couldn’t / know, not
then, that Donald was gone / already gone.
HER SMOKE (HER TRICK)
A good waitress, I wait up for her
to come home, smoky
& exhausted, her feet
swollen, I wait in her bed. Purple shadows
cross the purple carpet, her television
makes Sherlock Holmes blue, he sees
of the man who last used this room, scrapes
mud from the floor into an envelope, rich
with lime, with ash fallen
from the factories in the east. I wait.
Doze. The tv turns to snow. Silently
she pulls off her black shoes, empties
Her pockets. Next, her
genie trick, blowing smoke
into an empty juice glass,
cupping it with her palm until it slowly releases
up to the ceiling, the orange
tip of her cigarette a dying
scatter her in the Atlantic, my brother & I, I
watch her sink, diffuse. I break off
another chunk of hash, impale it
on a common pin pushed up
through the cover of Abbey Road, set it on fire
under an upturned glass
& we take turns taking it in, our lips
to the tilted rim. Then we fall back in
our chairs, we never
talk about her, as if even her name
& might turn to paste in our throats.
Once I fall from my stilts once the elephant
steps over my body once the strong man tosses me
& everyone like me into the hay once I step out of my little car
once the enormous hammer crushes my tiny flowered hat
once I climb the rigging once I leave the cannon
once sawdust becomes my sea
Years later I fell in love with a sword swallower
now when we come to your town we set up in fields
a field like every field if it rained the night before
it shimmers pits of shimmer I navigate home
home a trailer on the edge of a field
I hang up my face she hangs up her sword
The ferris wheel stops at the top
to let someone on I sway in my chair
the tent staked to the earth below
I used my hammer like everyone else
I am the one shot out of the cannon
every day at three this same face
this same cigarette a tiny ember
I’m always on fire I end the fucken show
“CEMETERY SAINT LOUIS” appears in the forthcoming collection, I Will Destroy You (Graywolf 2019). “INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS” appears in The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands (Graywolf 2013). “HER SMOKE (HER TRICK)” appears in Some Ether (Graywolf 2000). “ALCOHOLISM” appears in My Feelings (Graywolf 2015). All poems © Nick Flynn and reprinted with permission.
Feature photograph of Nick Flynn © Geordie Wood.
Voices on Addiction is a column devoted to true personal narratives of addiction, curated by Kelly Thompson, and authored by the spectrum of individuals affected by this illness. Through these essays, interviews, and book reviews we hope—in the words of Rebecca Solnit—to break the story by breaking the status quo of addiction: the shame, stigma, and hopelessness, and the lies and myths that surround it. Sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, adult children, extended family members, spouses, friends, employers or employees, boyfriends, girlfriends, neighbors, victims of crimes, and those who’ve committed crimes as addicts, and the personnel who often serve them, nurses, doctors, social workers, therapists, prison guards, police officers, policy makers and, of course, addicts themselves: Voices on Addiction will feature your stories. Because the story of addiction impacts us all. It’s time we break it. Submit here.