In 1999, Mike Fitzgibbons published a novel, My Senior Year, a fictional account of a teen’s senior year in high school. The novel received independent rave reviews from a panel commissioned by the publisher. In 2015, Fitzgibbons published a book of narrative poetry titled, The Light Within, a group of “story poems” which follow the themes Fitzgibbons champions – there is light and hope in stories of love everywhere.
It sat on the dresser next to the phone and the charger
and the alarm clock Ricky never used or needed
many mornings he would bolt upright with a chill he only knew when high
and hurting and strung out
many mornings he would awake in a cold sweat after not really sleeping
but he was because he remembered the dreams and the dreams were nightmares
and many mornings he would open his eyes and be in the same exact spot
as he was when he closed them no cold no sweat no nightmares
But always on time.
Some mornings in the shower he would almost feel the pinpricks
The thousands of past holes in his body from past injections
He administered to himself
The scars were there he knew it he knew he couldn’t see them all
he knew he couldn’t find them all
he knew he couldn’t really feel them all
But he remembered every one.
As he left home and drove to work each day how could he have a house
how could he have a car
how could he have a job
how could he be alive with health with freedom with a wife pregnant
He sat in the same chair at the 7 am meeting every day
Thinking not judging just listening and trying to love and give back
“I knew then I had hit bottom…” Ricky hoped the guy was flexible
Bottoms fall out to new bottoms and newer bottoms
And 11 rehab trips of all kinds that told him there are no tops no bottoms only is.
He always thought of Jenny then and the guilt would begin
At the top of his head and work down at the soles of his feet and work up
Sweating in panic at a meeting trying to be present where he was ok now
How she looked like an angel in her casket
How that was gonna be their last time and rehab together
How her face got that early high smile that intoxicated him by itself
How he rolled over after waking from his daze
And she lay there as if asleep but he knew from the drool she was gone
How her brothers dragged him from McGuinn’s Funeral Home
And beat him to a pulp in the parking lot
And he never raised his hands because he knew he deserved it
There were 18 months of no rehab haze after that
Half expecting to never wake up half the time sorry he did
The policeman’s name badge said Greg.
You want to die go ahead but not in my park and not on my shift
Is it your bench
They’re all my benches until I get off in the morning
I sleep here every night
Wrong. You slept here every night. Not anymore.
They stared at each other. Ricky was frozen, and it was 52 degrees.
What do I do where do I go he said through his slobber
Why not get you cleaned up, Mr… Ricky didn’t know he wanted a name
Ok, Mr. Ricky. I’m Mr. Greg.
He was in a tank that day in pain and scrubbing floors and between tile
With a toothbrush in pain and howling like a coyote at the night terrors
Wetting himself in pain and flashbacks always of hurt faces
Vomiting every day in pain
The first of the days that 11th time was December 14th
His 5 year chip would be next week
Denise and he planned a quiet dinner with her folks
His family was scattered but maybe this Christmas would take his call
He buttoned his shirt and leaned across the bed to kiss his wife on the cheek
“Love you. I’ll call at lunch.” “Ok. Love you back.” She spoke through her sleep.
He glanced at the clock he glanced at the charger
He glanced at the syringe he used on December 13 5 years before
Said a prayer of thanks and walked out the door.
Below is another original poem written by Michael Fitzgibbons that is an example of what is coming in his next collection.
Click below to hear "Syringe" read aloud by Michael Fitzgibbons.