True North

Kaiser Permanente, The Permanente Medical Group, The Permanente Federation

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

unswerving,

 

true as a magnet to the pole,

in one unbroken line

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