Voices on Addiction: Five Poems by Sophie Klahr






It seems so innocent—to place my hand
on the crown of his head while he drifts off
__nods   blanks   out on the still-made bed inside
the half-lit motel room. Then it swallows,
shudders—this being unable to save
anyone. This hand I’ve placed on my friend
somewhere in Santa Monica—it feels
like nothing, touching him, as if touching

hours ____ drifting       into other lobbies
there  ____  another chiming  ____ wrong door
before (tell me) (____  ____) which dark lobby
__is it. It is like the hollow feeling
when I forget to lean on prayer. It does
only so much. It is all I can do.



Again, the interstate. A song about
Elvis, how he shook it and it rang like
silver. Hey, Horizon City. I swear
this morning I saw the hands of God in
Phoenix, streaming over rush hour traffic.
We are supposed to be shook. I will change
what I can change, will try to leave the rest.
A billboard misread: “opioid crisis”
for “zip-line adventures.” In my hometown
back east, the newspaper prints six pictures
of kids who have overdosed. I once knew
a few. We held hands and prayed for our lives,
or at least, we tried. White sneakers in church
basements. White sneakers at the funerals.



_____and thinking of how in the ocean once,
waist-deep, we fought.       I had started drinking
again, trying to stop.      Was that the time
we stayed in a motel called The Sunrise?
White wicker, the peach-brushed walls, a prism
tied by fishing line to the fan so that
a jewel seemed to float mid-air? What year
was that    was that    the year he wrote     I     can’t
be what grounds you  ?     A song is slipping in—
_____If you fall asleep down by the water—
Recall’s accumulation swallows place—
or, say it this way—Memory rips me
from the land. I miss an exit. I mis-
take this state for another. Take the wheel.



Another story. The murmuration
sweeps as a single form, a hungry wind
embodied over the cold riverbank—
the starlings—night falling without a place
to set camp. If you don’t believe in ghosts,
I said, your loss. Lights of a town taken
for the hills on fire, penetrated air
mistaken for the scent of restless sleep
a poor triptych of orchids hung above.
The story of how gambling becomes ad-
_diction—loss-rush—one more night at The Red
Garter or Clearwater—familiar as
leaning bent against the pilled white bedspread,
my mouth saying Hit me. Hit me again



When the nurse on the phone won’t tell me
where you are, I turn my body into wind

__troubling the city of hospitals.
Slang of nurses, blood numbers, legalities;

my disease has made me fluent in Emergency;

at the front desks they are not allowed
to say you are here, but they do not say

you are not here, they say If he was here
would you want to send back a note?

____and I write three notes
in three hospitals, watching the nurse

for her smooth head’s small twitch that says,
            He isn’t here.

It’s Mercy Hospital, finally, that has you.
And again, because you are not family

I am a waiting room, crowded with sound.

jangles across the television: old news.

Two children, strangers, discuss superhero du jour:

Iron Man.       Iron Man can        he can fly, he has guns, he can turn
into whatever he needs.

The crows have come back
to the city for the spring. They swerve

over each river, crying to one another

Come here come here come here come here
come here. Come here come here


“AFTER THE WAR I DREAMT OF NOTHING BUT THE WAR” appears in Meet Me Here at Dawn (YesYesBooks 2016). Copyright © 2016 by Sophie Klahr. Reprinted by permission, courtesy of YesYes Books.


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.

Sophie Klahr's work appears in the New Yorker, American Poetry Review, and other publications. She is the author of Meet Me Here At Dawn (YesYes Books, 2016). Originally from Pittsburgh, she has no fixed address. At present, she is the Philip Roth Resident at the Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts. More from this author →