The Desolate “Isness” of Addiction – A Poem by Patrick Lane

Canadian author Patrick Lane (1939 – 2019)

Half-Hearted Moon

Sometimes I don’t feel anything. It’s best
to be with people when I do. I stare
across the coke and whiskey at Jimmy
and Moon. We are talking about nothing.
The half-hearted night stumbles
up the cracked pane and no one cares.
Moon is crying and there is nothing
I can do. She isn’t mine
and if she was I’d leave her. Right now
I’m staring at the scar of light
cut in the sky. You may think it hard,
the part about Moon.
But she is here and she is stoned
and she’s paid nothing for the trip.
She will.
The dark will come soon and eat her alive.
But not tonight.
Tonight it’s just me, safe for the hours,
a bottle hidden behind the wrecked sofa,
most of an eight-ball tucked into my sock,
knowing no matter what, I’m okay.
For now.
but you tell me, if you know.

Patrick Lane from Go Leaving Strange, Harbour Publishing, 2004

Tomorrow I facilitate a poetry writing session with men and women in recovery. In the aftermath of the death of the great Canadian writer Patrick Lane I have been thinking a lot about his poetry. And especially about this devastating poem written about the dark days of his addiction to alcohol and drugs before his recovery in 2000 at age sixty.That journey to recovery is portrayed in his award winning memoir There is a Season. Still one of the finest memoirs I have ever encountered.

This poem is one of the first I ever used in my poetry writing sessions with men and women in recovery twelve years ago. I keep adding new poems and writing adventures and so some of the earlier poems, like this one, I don’t use as much any more. But in Patrick’s memory I will share this poem tomorrow.
I am compelled by the stark and utter honesty of this poem. Its brutally matter-of-fact diction and expression. The wasteland of this bar and its occupants. The cruel desolation of the poem and its narrator. Right from the start: Sometimes I don’t feel anything. It’s best/ to be with people when I do. And that knockout line break! Its double play. The meaning of the longer grammatical sentence and the shocking statement in the poetic line or sentence: Sometimes I don’t feel anything. It’s best

And the remarkable reality! Patrick Lane left this bar and many like it. He became ok for a lot longer than now! Of all the singular achievements in Patrick Lane’s life his recovery might be the greatest achievement of all. I will share Patrick’s journey with my clients tomorrow. The blazing hope in it. A hope so far from the clincher line for me in this poem: The dark will come soon and eat her alive.

Patrick, dear friend and teacher, my life is different because you recovered: the dark did not come and eat you alive. Praise!

3 Comments

  1. Allan Briesmaster
    Posted March 9, 2019 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this, Richard. I shared it on Twitter. Such a powerful poem.

  2. Richard Osler
    Posted March 9, 2019 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Geoff. The darkness didn’t eat him alive. That’s the hope he is! Blessings.

  3. Geoffrey Cowper
    Posted March 9, 2019 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Well remembered Richard.

    Truly important, especially now, to learn from those who were able to recover from their addiction.

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