NEEDLES.

Jason was shy 
in a way that made you think
he was intelligent, enigmatic 
in a way that made you guess
what his life was like before he split. 
His plaid and leather jacket
was his second skin, a security blanket
during summer’s most brutal days.
Bondage pants and pole climber boots,
safety pins that sheathed him
like a coat of armor, they tried 
to keep the outside from getting in.

He kept Sid alive 
by becoming his twin brother,
emaciated and sunken, 
malnourished and sexy
with naturally brassy red liberty spikes
thrown together like a squirrel’s nest,
thrown together like the rest 
of the runaways in Vince’s basement,
bathed in photo darkroom blood-red light
where alcohol and sweat acted as developers
to produce impressionable young junkies,

where no one could get a close look 
at Jason’s eyes, blue and warm 
as a flame’s core but hollow,
trapped in a constant pose 
of squinting, burned-out bloodshot 
veins and nothing, full 
of tragedy and devastating 
beauty, eyes that broke hearts 
when they met another’s, eyes that made 
the girls want to save him,
so he carefully kept them 
lowered always.

He got the nickname Needles
because he always had one 
in his arm. Time the beauty thief 
stole Jason’s good looks
the way a syringe drains a tablespoon 
of freshly cooked smack.
He thought he had died 
and gone to heaven when 
months earlier he found 
the squatter family,
free cases of Michelob, 
cartons of Marlboro Reds,
loud rare hardcore records,
new clothes in the dumpster,
best friends and lovers,

a place where everything 
was free and everyone took 
care of him and every place 
was here and what he wanted. 
Now he could hardly pry his eyes 
open to watch 
the marriage of blood and heroin 
take a honeymoon 
in the fold of his elbow.
He could hardly watch 
the traces of thin bodies
moving in slow motion, 
cigarette cherries
glowing with random inhales,
lighting up the room
like falling stars.

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