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Poem: What You Wear To Bury Your Son, After His Heroin Overdose 

You want to cloak yourself in your fury, but it's too sharp

Like wind on the beach against a bad sunburn

So instead your first layer is the toddler he was,

Grape jelly smeared across his smiling face

Blonde hair sticky and damp

His grandma laughing beside him


You scream his name

And remember him as A Mutant Turtle, A Pirate, Batman

A sword always at the ready

You hold onto that, breathing in the smell of him

The sharpness, before that other smell, that smell of decay, of deceit

That sword, how you wish he could've used it


You're still seething but next you add on the boy he was on the field

All sinew and charm and goofiness

You've forgotten that he was once goofy!

Before the lying, before the stealing, before his mother grabbed him from behind and wouldn't let go, screaming into the night

Before the lying

Before the stealing

That boy, in his dirt-stained uniform

You wrap yourself in that


You add a layer of grace, for the times it seemed like he would find it

Might find it, please, let him find it, let him know

A minute of peace in the center of his swirling madness

The days he dropped the lies and the attitude and admitted

He was scared

You wrap yourself in that

And then it is time to walk out the door

But you know there is something else, and you run back to find it

Your wife calls from the door—"Hurry, we'll be late!"

You don't even know what it is you root for in the drawer

Past the tie clips and the golf tees and buttons and paper clips

Past the coins that say II and VI and X, not even the heaviest, XXVI

Not those, but the cheap white plastic one that says 1 Day

You put that in your left breast pocket, like the sword it is

And go to bury your son

  • A poem by Martha Frankel.

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