“Al-Anon” by Rachael Collins

Rachael Collins


We are all in the wrong hands. 

Before he was drinking, 
He held me like a drink. 
Before he was drinking, 
There was no before.

Before I invited him, 
he looked ready to stay. 

This is the house of narrative; 
This is the house of code; 
Your talismans, your prayers,
Your symbols and saviors.

Keep coming; come back; keep coming; 
Come back. 
Come to remember;
Come to record.

Your higher power is Jesus; 
Your higher power is the Lord God Almighty;
Your higher power is Protestant;
Your higher power is the expansive Episcopalian.

We have no place for politics.
Not Rasta Man, not Jimmy Page. 
For books with titles or for names.
We have no place for dates:
Not March 16, 1968. 
Not Santa Claus, not seafoam green. 
Not baby, bobo, darling dear.
We have no place for place: 
Not Odysseus sailing for home;
Not Hitchcock’s Hollywood;
Not Baldwin in Paris.
Don’t sing your songs: 
The “if I hads” 
“If I weres” 
And “if you gos”

Or tell your lies:
“When the night wears thin, 
I stare at an old photograph of him;”
“I took it when he was asleep? 
It’s limp. I smile at the sin;” 
“When the night wears on, 
I take out old credit card statements.
I look at what we used to spend;” 
“When the night passes into dream, 
We fuck until the cows come home. 
The windows hot with whiskey breath 
And hope.
The next day he moves in.” 

What do you hope to find here? 
We are your brothers and sisters. 
We sponsor your pain.
You narrate your pain. 
Put your wires in my brain.

My wife left me; she left my son. 

Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize. 
But do share,
Share your sacred pain. 
Bob Dylan won the prize. 
Share, share, lay your deep thoughts bare: 
“Odetta sings Dylan.”

But the Prize goes to Bob. 
The Prize still goes to Bob. 

Once upon a time
Buddha was not here. 
Once upon a time
A Jew wrings her hands;
She remembers the dead.
Once upon a time 
Hindus are not here; 
They wash it off in the river; 
They sing it from the books; 
They quiet, they sing;
He to school, she to fire;
She to fire, he to sun. 
Once upon a time 
She wanders through a valley of the dead, 
Then shares. 
Shares, she cries.

I came for the dead. 
I came to remember.
I came to record. 
In order to live.
In order.

In the beginning 
Was the word
And the word was with God
And the word was God
In the beginning
Before he was drinking 
I was.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021
Tribute to Neurodiversity


Rachael Collins: “I live with bipolar. It doesn’t affect my poetry; it is my poetry. For me, to be bipolar and to write poems is to insist on the value of neurodivergent modes of expression. When I am manic, I hear and process the world as if in fast forward. Voices, faces, sounds around me are a million little points of light in my brain, but I know these little points of light have meaning and value. When I write, the little points of light crystallize; they become incantations.”

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