Poem by Marc D. Goldfinger
Photo by Bill Perrault
After using the same cotton in my
cooker for two weeks it turned
a dark grey. Then I put it in a small
jar with many other tiny balls. Save
it for the inevitable day when the dope
man is not there and the sickness loosens
my bowels. It comes.
I gag on my smell, bile
pours from my sour mouth as I race
from corner to corner. The Judas
car is in the projects. Dealers hide,
peep out windows as they shoot
product. They can wait. I go back
to my small closet, a coffin with a toilet
and sink, strew my belongings on the floor
as I shake, pour the cottons into
a large tablespoon. No time to wash
the glass, just fill it and take eyedropper,
fit it with the stripped edge of a dollar, then
jam the Yale point on. Draw water.
Spray onto old cottons and cook. Wait
for water to boil. Draw water. Wrap
arm with old necktie and watch scarred
veins rise. Needlepoint on pulse. Tap
tap. The puncture is familiar, blood
looks black as it rises in the dropper, press
bulb and squeeze cotton shot home.
A sliver of thread goes to my heart. As
the dope takes away my sick the sweat
of cotton fever breaks out on my forehead.
I drop to the floor, body convulsing, not
high enough to wipe away the fear of dying
in a room of dirt, alone for the last time. What
decision was it, I wonder, that made it too
late to turn back? My body jerks like
a puppet with a mad master. Beyond control,
I kick the table and wet grey cotton balls
litter the floor. Then I am still. Slowly
I rise from the floor, wipe the salt from
my eyes, count the fix money. Get ready
to go back out, try again. Tired, afraid
of death, not ready for anything at all.
Cotton fever never kills you once.