True North

True North

Mary Dowd, MD

Fall 2008 - Volume 12 Number 4

Men at the jail

come in three varieties:

lost boys,

cool dudes,

old wrecks


The lost boys

have just awoken

from their trance

of heroin or coke,

or alcohol and oxy’s


Their hair is tousled

or sticks straight up

they can’t quite catch on

to where they are

or what they’ve done


They want to know

how long they’ve got

so they can get their sh-- together,

straighten out

before they’re gone at 28 or 30


And each time they come back

I tell them that they’re fine,

their liver will recover

if only they’ll stop

drinking, drugging, dying


The cool dudes

range from 25 to 40

blue eyes, white teeth,

well groomed, well muscled

even charming


Backs straight,

chests out

they swagger,

kings of pod 2b,

they’ve always got an angle


The wrecks

slouch into medical

leading with their paunch,

they have diabetes, heart disease

cirrhosis and ascites


Off the juice

they’re sad or angry

or encephalopathic

truly believing this time

they’ll be ready for rehab and a job


And the lost boys

don’t see,

what the cool dudes

don’t believe,

that the path


from boy

to dude

to wreck

proceeds relentless



true as a magnet to the pole,

in one unbroken line

The Permanente Journal

Sponsored by the eight Permanente Medical Groups, The Permanente Journal advances knowledge in scientific research, clinical medicine, and innovative health care delivery.

Reprint Permissions

The Permanente Journal welcomes requests for reprints and reproduction. Use of any and all material published in The Permanente Journal is copyrighted and protected.

The Permanente Press

The Permanente Press publishes The Permanente Journal and books related to healthcare. Journal subscriptions are entered for the calendar year. Advance payment in US dollars is required.

ISSN 1552-5775 Copyright © 2018

The Permanente Press. All Rights Reserved.