I generally publish poems and stories on my creative writing site, but I wanted to share this one here. Being back in therapy and working with a strong sponsor has stirred up a lot of emotions, and I’ve been reliving some of my darker days before I got sober. That’s where this poem comes from.
I believe poems should speak for themselves and rarely should the writer offer his or her insights into its meaning. I’m making an exception with this one…not because it’s particularly complex or hard-to-get, but I want to explain the importance of one line in particular. But first, the poem:
The Devil Gives Advice
“Take it easy,” Lucifer told me.
“Hell wasn’t built in a day.”
Easy for Ol’ Scratch to say,
he hasn’t had to do a dishonest
day’s labor in about two millennia.
“The key is to pace yourself,”
the Lord of Darkness went on.
“At this rate, you’ll die before
you have any kind of fun, and trust
me, you don’t want that to happen.”
And so I slowed my killing pace,
just to humor the Father of Lies.
The line in question is “And so I slowed my killing pace,” and it’s a reference to a line in the Gin Blossoms song “Mrs. Rita.” The line from the song goes:
I’ve been keeping myself busy with my books and with my tapes
And every day’s much better since I’ve slowed my drinking pace
There’s no swimming in the bottle
It’s just someplace we all drown…
If you’re a fan of the Gin Blossoms, you probably know that co-founder, guitarist, and songwriter Doug Hopkins committed sucicide after a long struggle with depression and alcoholism. The Gin Blossoms received a gold disc for “Hey Jealousy” and the album New Miserable Experience eventually went multiplatinum. Hopkins wouldn’t be around to enjoy the band’s success, though.
Long before I got help for my drinking, I would listen to the album and relate to Hopkins’ songs. Take the line from New Miserable Experience opening track, “Lost Horizons”:
Drink enough of anything to make this world look new again
Drunk drunk drunk in the gardens and the graves….
Dear lord, that line pierces my heart. I get it, and what’s more, I instantly romanticize the whole damn situation. There’s Robert, drunk again, wandering around the gardens and graves. How fitting. How poetic. How messed up.
We’ve lost so many musicians and songwriters to suicide, drugs, depression, and alcohol. I wish Doug Hopkins could have gotten the help he so desperately needed. The same goes for Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Scott Hutchinson…the list goes on.
I was fortunate enough to stop my drinking pace and stop listening to the Devil. Others don’t make it. I hope and pray more and more get help.
That’s it from me. Happy sober Saturday to all.