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Like our forefathers, did you ever
go as far, taking it in? Like De Quincey,
eating opium, if not trafficking?
Those white nights ineffably calm addicts
write about, were they ever
nights known to you? In all their prescience?
You can confide in me confessional:
we are judgmental not as our fathers.
We aren’t farseeing, intimated.
Frankly, let me tell you
respecting confidence, I was hooked on opium
once, no shit. But, aversely.
What’s done is done and were best done quickly
with. That’s when I was in the Air Force
handling inward goods. Specifically
forty gallon drums of chemicals, depth charges,
loads like that, heave and toss,
explosives – lean, bend, seize, heave.
That’s what brought them on,
call them what you will, piles, which bled.
Bleeding was least. This, my war effort.
The Medical officer looked me up, sent me
to a clinic. The clinic sent me back.
I was fit for handling, not for export,
not for knife work. "Try this," they said,
an ointment. Ung. opio et gallae, something
like that. You did it with a mirror,
getting it in place or nearly
in the ablutions block late night or early morning,
squinting, octopus-wise, when audience
was least. There was more to it
than met the eye. Learn quickly, not to cough,
especially, not to sneeze.
Remember, clean the glass before you leave.
                                                                      18. 8. 85
Editor's note
Confession of a NZ Opium Eater : first publication; a warttime memory of KS’ only ‘war wound’, i.e. piles which had to be treated with an opium based ointment; Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859), author of Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1822), an autobiographical account of the pleasures and pains of opium use
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