Alan Weadick

Touch

Alan Weadick

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Back then it was only ever called The Virus

on the streets, the courtyards, the balconies

and behind the council flat doors

where no one who didn’t have to

ever went; gutter- slang that they,

the smackheads, the creatures, the IDU’s could,

like everything else about the heroin epidemic

of the nineteen-eighties,

keep to themselves.


AIDS, meanwhile, was the unconnected Gay Plague

of the TV, radio and tabloids we sold dozens of daily

along with single eggs, loosie cigarettes,

thinner and thinner slices of cooked meat,

half pints of milk and half pounds of butter

and finally whatever we had on the shelves

in exchange for those butter vouchers

courtesy of a storied EU butter mountain

towering transcendently somewhere over a bottomless wine lake

while reading and hearing about the also thousands of leagues distant

deaths of beefcake movie stars and flamboyant

Rock Stars brought down to earth, finally,

with a shocking, but not all that surprising

Before and After picture, printed side by side.


But with S. it was always a different story;

already just a little slip of a thing

in and out of the shop all day long

to use the old Office of Post And Telegraphs payphone

on the back wall over the bags of coal and bales of turf.

She flapped and bustled on battered slippers

daily in the smack-sick horrors to connect with her fix

rattling the change I made for her

in her dressing gown pockets

making promises and threats

even I, who knew nothing, knew she wouldn’t keep.

Once, she slipped me a cube of hash

across the counter that I didn’t even yet

have a clue what to do with. But kept quiet about anyway

guessing it was yet another of those foggy zones

parents, teachers, priests and newsreaders

didn’t have the language to tell me about,

and was the only news I needed to hear;


Like, for instance, why it seemed girls would rather die

than let on they liked the look of you;

that there wasn’t much more to some people

than shopping lists of need and wants


that you, or they, could never satisfy;

that my childhood was now over;

that innocence wanders closer to the abyss

than experience

and maturity lets lie what it cannot,

without cost, speak of.

As it would later let lie the workers

about to be made redundant

from fear of contamination,

Or later still let lie, don’t mention it,

the colleague who had the weight

falling off him, for months

without trying, and for no good reason.

And, at that time, in the early nineteen eighties,

Let lie the bruises on S’s face and neck,

Let lie the track marks on her arms and legs,

Let lie her children searching through our bins for breakfast,

Let lie that there was less and less

of her each time I saw her

Let’s lie the already fading truth that,

somehow worst of all,

she knew that I finally knew

and that both of us had to let it lie

as one more fistful of small change

passed from my hand to hers

without consequence,

the truth that was sinking

by the day, by the hour

like the light

of hope

which is life

in her eyes.


Alan Weadick


Alan Weadick has had poems most recently published in Cyphers,  the Culture Matters anthology "Cry of the poor", The Stony Thursday Book and upcoming in Blackbox Manifold and Dreich. He lives in Dublin.