Steps to Seeing your Problem Ilse Griffin Poetry

local_library Steps to Seeing your Problem

by Ilse Griffin

Published in Issue No. 271 ~ December, 2019
  1. Someone tells you and you read and you hear and you see that people grow up and then they drink. They go to college and they drink. 
  2. College: Get blasted, probably ever one out of three days, for years. ⅓ is one of those tricky fractions. At first glance, it seems small; minimal. Barely part of a cookie. At second glance, it’s nearly every day.
  3. Vomit so frequently that your dentist muses aloud about enamel and acidity, wondering why your back teeth are in such bad shape.
  4. Stumble home from a party, some godknows awful time; the nice girl who makes sure no one in her section of the dorm dies puts you in the shower. People don’t put you in showers for no reason. Can’t remember now if you saw her again and how it felt.
  5. Go to detox twice in two months. Detox. Twice. It wasn’t cleansing: you wake up in a windowless room next to a woman twice your age with four times your problems. You are: a college student, wearing no shoes, confused, didn’t know detox existed. You have to wait there until your levels go down. You weigh yourself and the number pleases you. You are welcomed to make a call on their phone; yours is gone, along with your purse and jacket. You have nothing with you. You are just an animal. Not that it matters; no one you know has a car. Everyone is a brand-new college freshman, sleeping on Sunday morning. They kick you out at the crack of dawn. You leave detox, barefoot with no jacket. It’s winter in Wisconsin. You find a gas station and a nice person to drop you off at campus, which is about 30 miles away. You forget all of this when you reach your dorm room. What else can you do with it? This is not the kind of information to remember. You sleep for hours, warming your frostbitten toes. Your roommate studies, goes to work out. You wake up the next day and go to British Lit.
  6. This inability to integrate information takes you far. You hone the skill. You hear that you tried to throw yourself off a balcony at a party last night. You nod, try a smile, wondering: was it funny? Was I serious?
  7. Just so much drinking that this list should be an ugly rug the size of Ohio and tye-died in vomit. This is the wrong form. The wrong form.
  8. I don’t know anything about alcohol, anything about addiction; I am 19 years old. “I”. I drink and almost die every weekend. I listen to stories of what I did the way my ancestors listened to stories of naughty, trickster gods. Maybe I turn 20, but I couldn’t tell you.
  9. I join a SKA band as the trombonist. At shows, I wear tight red dresses; after shows, I play strip-poker, strip-anything, with my bandmates, who are all having sex with each other at separate times. We play at poorly lit student unions and under wet tents outside; our tempos dilate, and we laugh-yell at each other between songs. We are horrible. We are drunk.
  10. I’m in my early 20s and I am not sure what a morning feels like without a hangover. Hangovers are my mornings now. I sleep until 4pm, eating nothing, seeing nothing, speaking nothing, not moving. At 6 or 7, my hunger returns, but I can’t fill it. I make bowl after bowl of pasta. I probably haven’t eaten a vegetable in months. I am a vegetarian.
  11. In my mind, everyone’s lives were like mine. No one else had control either.
  12. I join the Peace Corps and get punted out to a life on the border of the Congo, Sudan, and Uganda. I’m not allowed to drink as I did in America. I eat a few vegetables. I observe my mind. No. Time waddles like a man the size of a car blocking everyone behind him.
  13. I come back home, two years later. I drink. My friends all have jobs and apartments and buy wine. I help them drink their wine. We go to breweries, wine bars, glory in ourselves.
  14. I move to Laos and start to almost die again every weekend, every chance. Now I’m in my late 20s. On the backs of motorcycles, riding side saddle, 1 am. I’m really living, I tell myself. I move home to Minnesota, which doesn’t deserve its own number on this list, because the same things keep happening. I bike home from a night at work and stop at different bars each night to drink by myself. I turn 30; at my party, I cry and vomit in the backyard. Cry and vomit.
  15. Somewhere, I hear myself. It could have been any moment.
  16. Wait for me, she says

account_box More About

Ilse Griffin received her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2009. Since then, she has been teaching English at home and abroad. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.