By Sam Willetts Sam Willetts
Missionary girl reports that Chinese addicts say
your heart begs you to stay away
even while your legs are carrying you back.
After the merry little jitter of the filter

and the smack dancing in the spoon, after
the absorbed, childlike, assassin-like procedure—

citric, water, flame—I’m back in the basement,
heartsick, digging for a vein in February

as in a February gone and a February
still to come, spitting prayers through the tourniquet

between my teeth, licking up tears and pleading
for my blood to plume up in the barrel, please

blossom up, squid-ink, blood-anemone
in the works—though you can have all that and miss,

or pull out and find you’d had a vein, now “pissing
blood”—Deano’s words as his gray fringe smeared across

his forehead, as he missed and bled and raged
to get it IN. Blood: thank Christ. Spit out

the tie, inject the welling gratitude
that flushes pleasure through the grief—

for the help and hope of friends
sold out, for all her loving years—

all of it driven down before one flood,
one gut-bracing stealth of warmth. Ah

well: restorative as sunshine to a snake.
So around the days and seasons

the junkies go—you might as well accelerate
us till our days and nights are strobing by—

use, cluck, raise, score, use, cluck, raise
lantern-show flicker of tail-chasing, nameless days

spent waiting, cheating, waiting, struggling to outrun
the burn-and-freeze and—maybe worse—

the waking up to all that’s lost: her happiness,
her younger years, the child she might have had.

FOOTNOTES: cluck: cold turkey; raise: raising money to score


Source: Poetry (February 2010).


This poem originally appeared in the February 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2010
 Sam  Willetts


Sam Willetts's first poetry collection is New Light for the Old Dark (April 2010, Jonathan Cape / Random House London). His work has appeared in TLS, LRB, Granta, Poetry Review, and elsewhere.

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Poems by Sam Willetts

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SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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