Love and Tolerance 


Others is our Code Jack McC.

.for my father, and the people who almost saved his life

We died of pneumonia in furnished rooms

where they found us three days later

when somebody complained about the smell

we died against bridge abutments

and nobody knew if it was suicide

and we probably didn't know either

except in the sense that it was always suicide

we died in hospitals

our stomachs huge, distended

and there was nothing they could do

we died in cells

never knowing whether we were guilty or not.

We went to priests

they gave us pledges

they told us to pray

they told us to go and sin no more, but go

we tried and we died

we died of overdoses

we died in bed (but usually not the Big Bed)

we died in straitjackets

in the DTs seeing God knows what

creeping skittering slithering

shuffling things

And you know what the worst thing was?

The worst thing was that

nobody ever believed how hard we tried

We went to doctors and they gave us stuff to take

that would make us sick when we drank

on the principle of so crazy, it just might work, I guess

or maybe they just shook their heads

and sent us places like Dropkick Murphy's

and when we got out we were hooked on paraldehyde

or maybe we lied to the doctors

and they told us not to drink so much

just drink like me

and we tried

and we died

we drowned in our own vomit

or choked on it

our broken jaws wired shut

we died playing Russian roulette

and people thought we'd lost

we died under the hoofs of horses

under the wheels of vehicles

under the knives and bootheels of our brother drunks

we died in shame

And you know what was even worse?

was that we couldn't believe it ourselves

that we had tried

and we died believing that

we didn't know what it meant to try

When we were desperate or hopeful

or deluded or embattled enough to go for help

we went to people with letters after their names

and prayed that they might have read the right books

that had the right words in them

never suspecting the terrifying truth

that the right words, as simple as they were

had not been written yet

We died falling off girders on high buildings

because of course ironworkers drink

of course they do

we died with a shotgun in our mouth

or jumping off a bridge

and everybody knew it was suicide

we died under the Southeast Expressway

with our hands tied behind us

and a bullet in the back of our head

because this time the people that we disappointed

were the wrong people

we died in convulsions, or of "insult to the brain"

incontinent, and in disgrace, abandoned

if we were women, we died degraded,

because women have so much more to live up to

we tried and we died and nobody cried

And the very worst thing

was that for every one of us that died

there were another hundred of us, or another thousand

who wished that we would die

who went to sleep praying we would not have to wake up

because what we were enduring was intolerable

and we knew in our hearts

it wasn't ever gonna change

One day in a hospital room in New York City

one of us had what the books call

a transforming spiritual experience

and he said to himself

I've got it

(no you haven't you've only got part of it)

and I have to share it

(now you've ALMOST got it)

and he kept trying to give it away

but we couldn't hear it

the transmission line wasn't open yet

we tried to hear it

we tried and we died

we died of one last cigarette

the comfort of its glowing in the dark

we passed out and the bed caught fire

they said we suffocated before our body burned

they said we never felt a thing

that was the best way maybe that we died

except sometimes we took our family with us

And the man in New York was so sure he had it

he tried to love us into sobriety

but that didn't work either, love confuses drunks

and still he tried and still we died

one after another we got his hopes up

and we broke his heart

because that's what we do

And the very worst thing of all was that every time

we thought we knew what the worst thing was

something happened that was worse

Until a day came in a hotel lobby

and it wasn't in Rome, or Jerusalem, or Mecca

or even Dublin, or South Boston

it was in Akron, Ohio, for Christ's sake

a day came when the man said

 I have to find a drunk

because I need him as much as he needs me

(NOW you've got it)

and the transmission line

after all those years

was open

the transmission line was open

And now we don't go to priests

and we don't go to doctors

and people with letters after their names

we come to people who have been there

we come to each other

and we try

and we don't have to die

This poem is written by and copyrighted by Jack McC. "Feel free to read the poem to any audience any time. But if you should give out a printed copy or an email, please make sure my name is on it. If the poem survives, I'm not humble enough yet to want it to be as "by Anonymous." Jack