Fentanyl is in everything right now,
lacing even marijuana.
My last five ambulance shifts in a row
I have gone on overdoses.
One patient told me all street-sold Xanax
She looked at me incredulously
when I didn’t know this fact.
A lot of ODs are accidental, some first time,
others a habit.
These people are near-corpses on
sidewalks, in parks, in beds.
They’re at their parent’s house rehabbing,
who are at wit’s end.
Now that Narcan is readily available,
most are alive when we arrive.
Oftentimes it’s family, friends, or
responding cops who administer.
We oxygenate the ones not breathing
until they twitch and jolt up.
Leave them with bloody throats
from the OPA we jammed down.
We used to start IVs, push Narcan,
take them to the hospital.
Now it squirts up their nose, wakes them up,
and they run off free.
I warn them they can relapse;
the drug can knock them stiff again.
They acknowledge it, shrug.
One 25 y/o said he only smokes it.
“I know literally ten motherfuckers already
who died injecting it.”
Yet he was also found unresponsive in an alley
by a garbageman.
Lucky. Addiction is a fickle beast, hard to shed,
harder not to judge.
I was listening to my DMX CDs today
while chopping dinner up.
Told my young daughter about his music,
his movies, his unabashed energy.
Our spirit and struggle ever-ongoing,
success and failure a duende.
I said some people do recover, forge a good life…
others unfortunately die.
A soul is trace dusting for the living;
music bar memories left behind.
In every fallible story, from each prismatic splinter,
we rock/ we roll/
we ride till we die/ still we try/
Joe Amaral's first poetry collection “The Street Medic” won the 2018 Palooka Press Chapbook Contest. His writing has appeared in 3Elements Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, New Verse News, Please See Me, Rise Up Review, River Heron Review, The Night Heron Barks and University Professors Press. Joe works 24-hour shifts as a paramedic on the California central coast. You can find him at jadetree.org
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