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Where does the poison start? a poem

Where does the poison start?

Where does the poison start,

blood alcohol in a pinprick,

barbiturates on the night table,

washed down with scotch,

or beatings during their own childhood,

the death of a sibling, parent losing his job,

The Depression, Second World War,

PTSD or mental illness.

A cruel teacher or neighbor,

a long hospitalization, a long illness,

poverty and an absent parent,

One in jail or disappeared.

A crazy leader, racism, the Holocaust,

Loneliness of a parent or grandparent,

Immigration, ridicule or abuse by an immigration official,

a landlord or political boss?

The poison starts with a toxic religion,

sometimes with childhood teasing,

A philosophy gone wrong— eugenics,

Psychiatry locking up angry women, gays.

The list doesn’t end.  Even one good parent

doesn’t guarantee the other is not cruel and impatient.

Children are born with talents and deficits,

One can encourage or discourage,

Little things matter.  Caring questions,

A caress, a prayer shared by all,

A walk holding hands, liftng on one’s shoulders,

Carrying when tired.

Love heals.

Jason Reynolds

July 9, 2016

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