The Heroin Diaries

SKU: 978-0-9770463-7-9 $10.00

Open this book if you dare, a poet’s lens into a world of the drowning, poems of the moment written with courage by a doctor. They express a dedicated healer’s compassion and the limitations of caring and medicine.

What is it like to drown? What is it like to stand on shore, unable to swim, watching the foundering? Mary Dowd bears witness in these poems to what we can’t change. She wrestles in language with the contradictions and the ironies that score our lives, as in the poem “Battered,” which ends, “He was my best friend. / He was so good to me.” And as she writes in “Feral”—

no doors on your heart,

no roof on your mind.

Nothing between you and the sky,

Nothing between you and the dirt,

Nothing between you and the knowledge

your final bed won’t be much different.

Experience these poems like the doctor, like a lover, reading with hands to feel what it means when caught in life’s riptides. Mary Dowd renders with a clear eye her own vulnerability and truth.

The details, descriptions, names, and settings have been altered to protect patient confidentiality. In the few poems where the patient’s identity may still be clear to their acquaintances, I have received permission from the patient to print the poem. In some cases the patients have preferred that I use their names. Some explanation of terms used and notes on addiction can be found at the end of the text.

Mary Dowd, MD, is a physician specializing in addiction in the homeless population in Portland, ME. She works in detox, at various addiction clinics, and sometimes does a stint at the county jail. She is married and has four grown children. Her poems have appeared in various journals and in the Hippocrates Prize Anthology 2017. She has led poetry workshops for the Transformational Language Arts Network at Goddard College in Plainfield, VT, and The Examined Life Conference in Iowa City, IA. For many years she led a workshop reading and writing poetry with men in long-term treatment for addiction at Milestone Foundation.

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