Colby Stopa CC
After a summer of living in his car,
after the DUI, the stint in Tent City,
decades of denial, fits of angry texts,
shakes and sweats over a barbecue grill,
a broken window. After near-death drug
deals, lying passed out in a fellow junkie’s house,
his sister sobbing into her phone, me behind
a bathroom door in another state trying to calm her.
After years of 12-step meetings (mine), tying my life
to mantras like let go or be dragged, letting grief
be a marinade to soften me ala some paraphrased Rumi poem.
After praying to my dead friend Jamelle, asking her to look
for him, look after him, wherever he was. After searching
strangers’ faces for his for over a year, he resurfaces,
altered. After he found in a black sack in his dad’s garage,
the book, Message to a Troubled World, written by my great
grandmother, channeled through an Ouija board in the 1940s.
After he could quote passages from the book like scripture.
After the methadone clinic. After looking for a church.
After handing water bottles to those holding cardboard signs
at street corners. After scavenging backpacks from bulk trash,
gifting them to those he met along the canals, those who carried
their belongings in plastic bags, he now stands in a place where
he tells me he’s never been this happy, serving others, the answer,
a place where he finally feels he fits— in a room stacked with milk
crates and boxes with graphics of bananas, metal shelves piled high
with iceberg, red bell peppers, striped melons, cukes and squash,
row upon row of Kashi, Kraft mac and cheese, Campbell’s cans, jars
of Skippy and grape jam, the crew of volunteers clad in khaki pants
and Pure Heart t-shirts, their arms and legs in wheel-like motion, food to box,
box to the next arms in a line that forms outside the door. My son grinning,
his open hand sweeping the room, pointing to produce, day-old pastries, dairy,
meat, eggs in the walk-in fridge, beams of Tuesday sunlight scattering through
the glass, falling on all in the scene, his face and eyes wide, effervescent, lit.
Susan Vespoli writes from Arizona. She's had work published in spots such as Rattle, Mom Egg Review, Nailed Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.