This is one of those flinchy-to-post poems, the best kind.
When My Children Asked if I Ever Did Cocaine
We were at the dinner table and having
one of those middle school segue-y conversations,
which began when it was reported a kid
in seventh grade science class pulled a bag of weed
out of his backpack, to which my youngest child asked,
I explained it was marijuana or pot,
a plant you smoke or eat
and it really isn’t that big a deal,
except if you use it before you are an adult
and perhaps get it laced with meth,
which is what happened to a brother of their friend,
whose Mom now visits him at juvenile hall
when not making calls to lawyers and rehabs.
When they wondered about cocaine I flashed back
almost thirty years to the college dorm room
where it all went down-
the coffee table, the certain point in the evening
when the alcohol had done its job,
making me feel pretty enough
to deserve my waterpolo-playing boyfriend,
helping me forget I had a Chemistry final in two days,
soothing me because I didn’t know my plan after graduation.
All I cared about was the explosion
when I took a straw-full into my nostril,
the expansion, feeling finally close to joy.
When posed such questions,
omission can be the missive,
but my kids are getting older,
so I downplayed that yes, I did try it,
but quickly unfolded the virtual brochure
I have created for them,
the “how not to get into drug trouble" text,
drink beer or wine, not shots or mixed drinks,
a little pot perhaps
and all this only when you are older.
I did not tell them about the clove cigarettes
I smoked on the walk home from the bus stop
or the mason jars of gin I snuck
from my parents’ liquor cabinet
before going slam dancing with punk rockers
in downtown Sacramento.
Nor did I mention the boy who picked me up late at night
in his restored Mustang and drove in the middle of road without lights
too fast down country curves, I’d watch with thrill/terror
for oncoming cars, the telephone wires glowed first.
The fast driver, who deflowered me in the back of his car,
wouldn’t look at me the next day
across the school cafeteria as he had a girlfriend.
In college, some mornings still clenching my jaw,
dawn was a judge sentencing me to another anxious day.
After bruising it up in the mosh pit,
I drove the wrong way down a one-way street
and ended up with a cheek dusted with glass.
Addiction is a demon that once birthed
never really dies, it hibernates and shape shifts.
Adolescence was blackouts and reluctant blow jobs,
in college I majored in anorexia and apprehension,
motherhood became two decades of sugar and shopping.
After my divorce,
vodka/cranberry juice in a water bottle,
skirmishes of casual sex with and without condoms.
For a long time,
I thought I was lucky,
with no DUIs or STDs,
that I got away with something,
but each shortcut to ecstasy
was at the expense of everything.
I got away until I didn’t,
until the boorish work of building a self
became the high I went after.
The hangover, the tipped domino of self doubt,
the wasted years I spent intermittently,
sometimes only mildly wasted,
I want to spare my children them.
Yes, kids, I did some things, but you shouldn’t.