"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want."

-Jazz, Toni Morrison


WHAT IS THE HEROIN?

WHAT IS THE HEROIN?

We didn’t get to choose our bodies
Or really anything much and we’re born
Into a game with rules set,
With these bodies, these faces,
Really, this hair.
There is somebody stronger enforcing
The rules. Also you are stronger
Than some others and you can hurt them.
It’s a hierarchy and there are 
Worse places where the others
You can hurt are stuck.
You always have food to think about
And imagine when
Body feels good, not hungry, not cold,
No thirst, no painful or irritated sites,
No sex-longing, absence of discomfort.
Not even a funny smell.
That is the heroin, when that happens,
And that is the heroin, thinking always about
That happening,
I get to set rules, 
About fourteen, fifteen rules.
Rules against the elk
Shot in snowy woods
Broken down with knife
Stretched on tree frame
Wrapped in plastic, cooked.
Rules against turnstile rival,
Black guy who shoved me
Hard like a football lineman
Pushing through from his side
While I swipe my metrocard
I staggered back, loser
Hey I said You got a lot of anger—!
He came through me
“Not this time, motherfucker"

I grabbed him by the shoulders
In Canal Street
A Train subway station
Trying to get him to look
In my eyes, look
At the guy you
just smashed like you
Wanted to kill me
Look it’s just me,
Just a turnstile.
Which, they don’t work.
No the turnstile is terrible
Social engineering.
Guaranteed flashpoint.
Realized later
I had on my mirrored
Shades so no way he could see
My eyes. Who knows what
He would have done.
He had black-white rules
Against him. Something about me:
He snapped.
Rules against the unattractive,
The old,
The mating rejects,
The ugly, the fat.
Most of this drama
you look back on,
What did you win:
Pitiable beheadings
Despicable
Aggrandizements
Turnstile winner
Elk killer, laudem
There's too much
Buggy code in the world
I mean genes now
I mean laws, 
I mean physics now
I mean time
Though there are good 
Arguments against Free Will
(Existence thereof)
And brains don’t seem to store
An identikit that adds up to You

And there are four and five and six
Dimensions we still feel
Do you? you hearing this
Feel too? You elk
You turnstile-challenger, feel too?
Like an individual
Person in a Place with a Top
And Bottom and Sides
We can lean on because
I feel it coming on.
That is the heroin,
That wish you wish,
I wish it too. We wish
We’d be happy and body
Feels good.


Frank Rubino has been published in Vending Machine, Carbon Culture, Inscape, and others. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2017. He has been performing poetry since 1982 in numerous locations in and around New York. He lives in New Jersey with my wife and four children.

Cover photo by Jair Lázaro on Unsplash

Why the Long Face?

Why the Long Face?

An Apology for the Devil

An Apology for the Devil

0