Holly S. Rauch
20″ x 20″ • Acrylics on canvas
This piece is about a difficult story from a soldier who answered her country’s call, and now in the midst of opioid addiction, can’t find the help she needs from her country.
by Michael MeKeown Bondhus
Just shits and despair this time, so a good day to try clearing my veins. I drive to the VA where they make me fill out intake forms. I sit in the plastic chair and feel the fluorescent lights bake my skin. Patrolling the desert is boring as fuck because the landscape never changes, but it taught me how to wait. Relieve boredom by counting red things, things with visible edges, things that might explode. When you run out of things, count numbers. If you’re high, it’s easy to ponder the curve of a 2, the cool comfort of a 0, the threatening nature of a 1 with its spiked body and implied loneliness.
Hours pass and my body is a sleeping bag zipped too tight. Organs sweat and the sweat makes my bones itch. My country called and I answered (mainly to get out of my shit town with its 20+ churches, but still). Now my return calls go straight to voicemail. I leave messages til the inbox is full, spitting word salad and deranging myself into haiku:
Methadone. Bed. Yes,
yes. VHIC. Photo ID. Yes,
pain scale 1 to 10
meaningless; opioids count
to 11, 12, 56, 173.
(America, take my heart, purple with disappointment and lack of oxygen.)
28,800 seconds later the triage nurse finishes her haiku:
No beds for 6 months.
Detox at home, then come see
Automatic doors open to the parking lot. I’m white phosphorous and muscle aches.
(This is why we kill ourselves.)