VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Steven Dee Kish

Bad Friends

I flip open my zippo lighter…flick …flick…

The orange flame lights my Kent cigarette; the smell of tobacco fills the air.

I grab a church key and open a bottle of beer.

I’m drowning my sorrows with booze; it soothes my parched throat.

Half buzzed; I take a stroll to MY community center.

I bust through the door like the Kool-Aid man.

I scan the room; the plight is palatable; my life story is the same as there’s.

I tell the bartender to line them up; he pours bottom shelf liquor to the brim of the shot glass.

The booze makes my cheeks flush.

It warms my soul like visiting a long-lost friend, but who are my friends?

Jack Daniels…Mary Jane…The Marlboro Man?

All my friends are bought; They don’t seem to have my best interests.

Yet, they take away the pain so quickly.

Another lost soul sits beside me; he forces minor chit-chat.

He tells me about a new friend and asks me to visit him.

Sure, why not? I’m not married to my friends; there is no ring on my finger.

My new friend gave me a cord to tie around my arm; Is this a true friend?

Doesn’t he know I hate needles?

After our first conversation, I find myself jabbing myself every day.

My life is out of control; my friends are running my life.

The dim lighting in my roach-filled apartment hides my pain.

I am alone; I need help!

I’m stuck in the basement of life and need to take the first step of twelve.

My friends keep me right where they want me, and I can’t stop buying my new friend.

Holiday Road

The wheel’s hum on the asphalt road.

A cold Christmas wind slightly pushes the car.

Soon, children and families will be ripping decorative paper.

The sounds of joy invade the morning silence.

There will be no joy for me.

My destination is unknown; fingernails grip the leather steering wheel.

The sparse headlights are my Christmas lights.

My present is a single snowflake.

Unfortunately, it disappears when it hits the defrosted windshield.

Voices on the radio try to keep me company.

I spy with my little eye…. Faces inside cars.

Who are these lonely drivers on the holiday road?

Loners?

Queer fish?

Zealots?

Boo Radley?

The heat from the car vent blows on my expressionless face.

My phone that never rings is riding shotgun.

Have people forgotten about me?

Am I unlovable?

My broken heart is my GPS.

Memories from my past become abundant.

Anguish, regret, and misery take hold of my soul.

Enjoying the sounds of the seasons seems like decades ago.

A gas station hosts a family dinner.

A Styrofoam cup is filled with sorrow.

It’s so bitter I chase it with a mug of eggnog.

The driver’s seat is calling me to sit until the next fill up.

There is no mistletoe, no hugs, no family gatherings for me.

The open road is my family.

Family Dinner

Gather around my vagabond friends.

Families and friends have abandoned us ages ago.

They have their reason; they say we were too: harsh, thoughtless, and destructive.

We have our reasons: childhood trauma, addiction, and mental health issues.

Black sheep is what family calls us as we now take residence in the streets.

A nosy highway overpass becomes a home; A filthy dumpster becomes our supermarket.

Time and circumstance have brought this batch of drifters together.

Let’s take a seat in our favorite back alley and have a family dinner.

Our souls are starving and need nourishment.

Dented soup cans, stale bread, and curdled dairy lay on a grubby cardboard box.

The main course, an expired brown hunk of beef brisket.

There’s no pre-meal prayer as greasy hands reach for the questionable food.

We cannot help ourselves; selfish ways take hold, and we start fighting over the smorgasbord.

Food flies into our mouths in hopes of nourishment to soothe our broken panhandling souls.

A brief moment in time, our bellies are full.

Temporary smiles appear on our dirty and careworn faces.

Meaningful conversation fills the night air.

This is our perfect moment in time.

Bang! Our moment disappears.

Throats swell as we all gasp for air.

Our broken brains start to become dizzy.

Dirty hands start to reach for each other.

Our fractured souls fall into trash and grime that surround the scuzzy alley.

Rotten food seeps from the corner of our mouths.

This is no tryptophan nap; it’s a forever sleep.

Bodies full of rancid cuisine finally succumb to the plague that infested their last family dinner.

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