Steve Henn

Columbia, Misery

What is it the addicted are really addicted to?
Feeling better? If I felt okay continuously
I wouldn’t know how to take it. After my wife’s 2nd tour
of inpatient behavioral, before we divorced,
the doc put her on Lithium. Stable as God’s Table
on a flat, flat Earth. Then she quit taking it.
Said she didn’t feel like herself any more.
Who is it we’re really married to when we drop
successful medical treatment for alcohol
or pot, illicitly acquired Xanax or Oxy?
Our own Misery? I lived there when young
and stupid. Late in the semester my girlfriend
split with me because the only thing she liked about us
was the almost-sex we had so much. I got high
and cried for three weeks nonstop, all the way
back to Indiana. My brother brought me back on
a 3 – 7 a.m. run to clean out my dorm room,
looking the other way when I swept the stems
and seeds from a desk drawer into the trash.
It took 22 years of bad memories to bring me
flush up to sobriety. We say we want deep love,
don’t we? Attitude or platitude? I’ve abandoned
more lovers than I’ve loved. We can be
so very close to climax when I bang shut
the awful deadly chambers of my heart.


a Sign of Affection or the Butt of a Joke?

I can understand why you’d take a dog
for a run in the woods but not a radio.
I have to remind myself I didn’t earn this peace.
People greet me on the sidewalk – do I look
like less of a drunk? I wore my Bowie shirt
to the busy woods because I didn’t want to
turn off the evangelicals with the “Vegetarian
Alcoholic” one. Sunday. Some of the sermonized
mean-mugged my bi-curious “Heroes” shirt anyway.
My 2nd year teaching, kids posted Labyrinth-Bowie
on the back classroom wall and joked about his
package. Then they bought me that T-shirt.
A sign of affection or the butt of a joke? Hard telling.
Surreal teenagers. Once, a student really enjoyed
telling how in the car line leaving campus
at 3:00 one afternoon she got a cell phone shot of me
driving and picking my nose.


Steve Henn’s latest collection is Indiana Noble Sad Man of the Year (Wolfson Press, 2017). He spent one miserable semester in Columbia, Misery, and he’s never going back.