Writing Workshop Wednesday: For you, my friends, by Justin Burggraeve

Photo by Dustin Quasar.

For you, my friends


I write for the homeless man

who sleeps on the park bench

A lazy bum most will assume

the man in the shelters

or alone with a rope and an empty bottle

in the regent hotel room


My thoughts written in blood 

The reader treats the words

like drugs he must consume

in a while he'll read his limit

had enough

death will reach him soon


So if you really

want to feel my words

you'll need a cooker, a lighter 

a needle, some water and a spoon


I write for the Harlot

who stands in a red mini

in the black night's rain

black bra, fish net stockings 

on the corner

no umbrella no coat

numb from heroin and cocaine


My pen trembles on the paper

tears hit, mark left 

she'll raise her children different she says

she will break the chain

my heart aches

feeling her childhood pain


If you want to know what she feels

find a dealer, buy a hit

cook it, insert it, spike the vein


Insane?  "Yeah" she says

"but it's better than feeling the shame"


I write for the Dealer

Supporting his habit

supporting his children 

full of lies

ashamed, guilt ridden 

but still he's pushing 

our demise


the keyboard buttons slow

reflect to my pushing days

a pusher, not a dealer , I don't deny

to my own friends

wolf in sheep's disguise


If you want to escape 

living for a time

see this man, see his eyes

blank, stone cold,

that man is sly

couldn't care less

who lives ?

who dies? 

All it takes is one bad hit

one try, one buy.


I write for the mental patient

alone in a padded room

straight jacket 

family had enough

said they tried

she swallowed pills

had to have her certified


I push the pen through the paper

while I write these words

knowing the girl would be ok

even though she could have died

she would be ok 

with the anti psychotic 




If you want to know how they feel 


stay up for weeks

shooting coke and speed 

until the voices begin to lie

still I cry

when another one of us 

listens to the voices

and commits suicide


I write for the addict

who tries desperately 

to get sober 

but keeps a hastings lean

methadone maintenance, detox , treatment, 12 step

smart recovery

and can't stay clean


I throw my pen across the room

spit in my notebook

wishing to intervene

but symbolically pick it back up 

write a new scene

remembering the recovery process of 

of Martin and Charlie Sheen


If you want to see how we became addicted

start with the mean

the abuse we suffered as children

and work up to the bullying as a teen

Plant medicine has us surviving, awakened spiritually

living serene


I write for the parents, spouses, siblings and children

of the hungry ghost

On whom they all too often depend

But who cannot grasp why they do it

they are at wits end


I finshed the email

I've written to a ghost back home

typed it up, spell check, press send

they've asked for money 

but its only compassion i can afford to lend


If you are the family that I write for, or maybe

you are just one of the few of the Ghosts "normy" friends

they will beg for currency

stating you know nothing of how they feel

but still you must not bend

it is your integrity not your understanding

you need to defend


Take it from a clean junky

the relationship will mend

itself and there will not be 

a funeral to attend


But mostly I write for the rich

in the hopes my story and others seen through dead blue eyes

will open their eyes

awaken their mind

and bleed their heart


I finish writing another story 

reminding myself 

I am not changing the world

but at least its a start

maybe they will give that man change 

the next time they are coming out of 

the West Vancouver Walmart

If you want to give to the cause 

Purchase Downtown Eastside writng and art

more important: donate your time.

Most important: buy a meal

for the man you just passed while reading this 

that so-called "crazy"

pushing a shopping cart


I write for all of you..... but above everyone I write for me

its my passion , my love, my spirit in words, it keeps me alive because it's my therapy



Justin participates in Megaphone's creative writing workshop at Onsite. He read his work in public for the first time at Megaphone's reading at the Vancouver Writer's Festival in late October. 

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