It doesn’t matter where you live in New England, you’ll hear about people using opiates for more than pain relief. Their stories are coming out not only in emergency rooms and support groups, but also in art. Poet Amy Dryansky who lives in Conway, Massachusetts, and whose collection“Grass Whistle” won the 2014 Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry, says visitors who drive through her idyllic hilltown may think the heroin epidemic wouldn’t hit here. But it has, in her own neighborhood. She says she watched one family, and their house, fall apart. It was the inspiration for her poem “Fixed Blue Gone”
When the house began to empty
it was almost spring.
Beneath the leafless oak, blue
lilies pushed through
patches of snow, surrounded
an empty pizza box
guarding the lawn
like a tied-out, barking dog.
For a while, she was fixing
up the place: little statues, a blue
wading pool for the kids.
There was a car, she got them to school
pretty much on time.
Then that was gone, too,
and some nights red, white and blue
cruiser lights washed up against the house.
You knew they were fighting.
You could hear it, you could
practically see through gaps in the siding
they never managed to fix, imagine
in winter, heat from the fire
rushing back out, somebody’s fingers
possibly blue with cold.
March, no smoke in the chimney,
just an empty, pounded down spot
and frayed blue tarp
where cordwood used to be.
Then she was in jail, and all around
the house tall grass, blown
lilacs, wild rose swallowing
junked lawnmowers and tractors
he used to fix for a little cash,
along with the weed he sold
he said, to keep himself in smoke.
April, I gave him and the oldest boy
a ride, both of them junkie twitching,
sweating in the back seat—
his boy and my girl the same age—
and I made small talk.
High summer and the house gone
dark, cardboard for windows,
wheelbarrow heaped with dirt, shovel
set against it, like someone thought
they were coming right back.
Since Dryansky wrote this poem, she says the house has been sold, it may be torn down, and the kids, she believes, are in a foster home.
Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled Amy Dryansky’s name.