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CONTRIBUTION · 12th February 2010
Carrie Chapple
his slenderness should have been a clue
but oh
so many of his family were reed thin
lithe as young willow branches
and his gauntness was hidden by his lush hair
his loose clothes
and his dancer-like gait

his cough should have been a clue
but oh
his fingers were yellowed
by a million hungry puffs
drawn deep into his lungs
and so many others
coughed
coughed
like punctuation marks in their conversation

his flu-like sumptoms should have been a clue
but oh
when one drinks for every meal then
nausea and sweats are the natural result
a small price to pay for oblivion

his fatigue should have been a clue
but oh
stupours
blackouts
even convulsions
could have had other causes
when a bottle was never far from his hand

he had known such pain in his life
little wonder that he lived hard
and now would die young
that hidden virus
raging through his veins

if only the whisky
had not erased all memory of
the one who shared the plague
in one frenzied act
perhaps shares it still
unknowing
or uncaring

his sadness now should be a clue
but oh
so many in his family
have died younger than they should
helped by their own hands

his visits to the clinic are the final clue
but oh
he listens with deaf ears
still eager for whisky's greedy embrace
then shares his contaminated kisses
spins life's roulette wheel
betting with another's chips

(original, copyrighted, no reprint w/o permission of the author)

picture of a painting by Robert Preusser