You think: Where was I when all these dead were dying, dropping 
off and piling up?
                                  Andy  C. you  knew  since  sporting  chains in 
junior  high.  Slit the  back of a  Fentanyl  patch to get at  the inside. 
Time released all at once.  Maybe you  were tapping after snapping 
a vial, copped from a girl whose guy got slick,  swiped some  boxes 
from a truck. Around the time the towers came down, because you 
were   still   living  in   The  Bricks,   and   despite  the  nights’  new 
elevations you’d only begun to get the taste.
                                                                        Amanda  K.  and  Josh 
P., lingering  from way back, each  in a car and shouldn’t  have  been. 
You    down   in   some  city,    blacking  out   and   tripping   through 
windows, waking up  swollen and scarred, getting a  dollar any  way 
you could to keep it going.
                                          Carrie  with  the  lip  ring  and  razorblade 
grin, who told you once, while you were getting right at the kitchen 
table,  her  mom  disowned  her  because she  liked girls  and dope, 
said, because  the devil  done got  hold of me by the ankle.  Maybe 
while she  choked  in  that  upstairs  room  you  and  your girl  were 
sticking  up  your dealer  with a steak  knife or  stripping seals  from 
CD cases to unload up the road, after a three-for-twenty or a single 
bag.
          Fawzaan, always  falling out, behind the wheel at a four-way 
stop,  in  a corner, on a couch—couldn’t come back  from  the  last 
one. Joey B. with the busted teeth, maybe laid flat while you were 
towing  cars on a  quick  lick  to  that  shady ass  scrapyard  across 
town,  or  reviving  Kyle  in  the  bathroom,  smacking  around  his 
naked  lank, splashing  him with cold water—Don’t you  fuckin’ die 
in  my  house—getting  him  to suck some air, waiting  to see he’d 
come  out of  it crying  like  a child so you  could  leave  him  there, 
sheet-wrapped and wet  while you  snatched  the  last of his stash. 
Didn’t even  think,  It could  be  bad  batch,  before  ducking  to the 
bedroom, taking the shot that almost took him down.
                                                                                            That   kid 
Kurt you  turned  on  first  so  you could  dip  in.  Where was  I, you 
think, when he turned up face down by a wife who never knew the 
truth?  Maybe   with  your   girl,  the   one   who   worked  for   the 
phone-sex  line, trading  hot words and heavy breath in a back seat 
for  a   few   balloons,  while   you  hit   up  front   and   felt   numb.
                                                                                  And how many 
others,  picked  off  while  you  faked  interest  in  pictures  of  your 
friend’s  friend’s cat, distraction  while  he  emptied  the  medicine 
cabinet,  crotching  a  bag  of  rigs  and  a  month’s  supply  of  the 
morphine that  helped  her cope with the cancer, killing her, you in 
your own way dying.
                                        But you’d go on  living and  wonder why. 
Jesse  and  Steve  and  Tami J.  never  could  get  a  grip  but you 
somehow could. And you still wonder and can’t take the worn out 
platitudes in the rooms, about God’s divine hand. He wasn’t done 
with you yet—as if the  rest were just expendable. He’s got other 
plans for you—as if their purpose had been served, time used  up. 
The nerve it takes to say such things, and to believe them.
                                                                                             Danielle, 
who was always Danni. You knew her from a damn-near baby. Got 
so strung out she strung herself up in a closet far away from home, 
fields stretched out around her.  And Donnie, whom  you only met 
once  but whose  light was among  the  brightest, taken out  like a 
heel-snuffed ember. Matt, who died on Christmas  in a parking  lot.
                   Aunt Dee-Dee  had a whole life, kids, was a wife, and 
then traded it all for a fast slide down a slim glass pipe, then some 
kind of cocktail, keeping her sleeping when she should have  woke 
up.   Maybe   when   you   were  looting   your   in-laws—jewelry, 
antiques,  whatever  you could  hock for a South Side rock.  Or by 
then  sitting  on  your  rack  down on  the  compound,  that  joint 
surrounded by fences and hills, bitting, flexing, waiting to ride out. 
Paying that debt that would never be paid.
                                                                    He works in mysterious 
ways, they tell you. Robbie and Katie and Crazy Ray. They say, It’s 
for  Him to  understand  and  us  to trust.  Lance and  Adam. Some 
aren’t  meant for  this world.  Your  man Taz and Christina from the 
Heights.  They’re  in a  better  place. You  let  the  words, so  many 
words, come at you.  You  let  them  land  and roll off.  Nikki. Denis. 
Eddie T.
       You think: All gone. 
                                                 And I’m still here.
William R. Soldan

William R. Soldan

William R. Soldan grew up in and around the Rust Belt city of Youngstown, Ohio, where he lives with his wife and two children. He's a high school dropout and college graduate who holds a BA in English Literature from Youngstown State University and an MFA from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. His work appears or is forthcoming in publications such as New World Writing, Jellyfish Review, Thuglit, (b)OINK, Anomaly Literary Journal, The Best American Mystery Stories 2017, Ohio’s Best Emerging Poets, and many others. If you’d like to connect, hit him up on social media.
William R. Soldan

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