Dig by Tommy Sheffield

Sammy told me

that she really dug

the way DXM made

her feel. She said it

fills you with energy,

a heated excitement,

and that your mind

expands like a balloon,​

so that soon you feel

like a leaf on the wind,

like a feather off a wing,

drifting down.

So, I went to the 24-hour

Walmart and stole all the

cough syrup that would

fit in my coat pockets,

and snuck past the blue-

vested employees, out

into the parking lot,

and began the long walk home.

And in my recliner

I sit back and read

forums wherein

losers cite their

experiences

and explain

how DXM

is ingested.

And earlier,

when I was

walking home,

I saw on the ground

a reflection, of orange

light from a street lamp,

which seeped between the 

tree branches and leaves

onto the wet asphalt

in front of me.

I have allergies.

To cats, specifically.

Now, when I get cat hair

in my eye-hole, it hurts

so much that I punch

the wall in my closet,

and now it’s full of holes.

So I’ve got a habit of itching.

Scratching. Irritating the skin

with impulsiveness. A perfectionist’s

inclination: to eliminate discomfort

in all forms—like the intentions of

any cruise ship—to bring you back

to the time when you were a baby

and all you had to do was suck

a tit and all of a sudden you were

all good again, because they were

gonna clean the shit and piss for you;

isn’t that what you want America?

So when I finally had cooked the DXM,

when I had melted it down and sloshed it around

and made my Kool-Aid-like fluid,

and drank it down like I would

an iced tea on a thirsty summer day:

and from me exploded a thousand

tiny thoughts and phrases which seemed

to frame every insane reality that had ever effaced

the shape of my smile: I was a cloud,

floating, watching the world from a height

so high it was a bird’s-eye-view: I look down

and see Sim City—the game I used to play

when I was young and would build cities

just to crush them down with a bulldozer.

And isn’t that what I do now, 

after all, with words?

Subversion, such a subtle calamity

of dissatisfaction: America,

such a repressed superstructure.

Invincible in its ignorance it establishes

society through gracelessness to create

a graceless society that eats grace alive.

“Leap!” says my heart.

“Control!” says my brain.

“Keep the strain within reason,”

say the muscles in my face.

I’d like to see me try.

I’d like to see more than half

of any one thing.

Oh right, back to the itching.

An impulse, insatiable, imbecilic,

and a few more i-words that 

represent the irritable half-blind life

I’m forced by my past self to live.

It was a fingernail that did it:

got stuck in my eye, while I

was clipping my nails—

now when I do it I shut

my eye with each loud

click of the metal, to keep

it safe from the harm 

I didn’t even know 

existed—I was 

looking closely

at my cuticles as I 

clicked the clipper,

wanting not to clip 

too far, and I didn’t;

in fact I made what 

surgeons might call

a shallow incision.

But the nail flew

through the air

and scratched 

my eye and might 

as well have been acid 

for the damage it did

in the end.

I think back; I think that back then

I thought the nail had slipped

beneath my eyelid, beside 

the culvert of my tear duct—

that it might be cutting my eye,

might keep cutting it,

that my eye might start bleeding,

might look terrible to everyone

who saw me. 

Oh how right I was.

Seeing the color of my skin’s pigment

flipping back and forth between pink

and white and red and purple and blue

and visions of you, I began to scratch

at the strange bit of invisible

skin that turned out

to be my eye’s lining,

which, by the end,

was so loose around

the ball that I could pull

on it with my fingernails

pressed together like pincers,

and pull it out from the white ball,

and snap it back.

Turns out the nail just bounced off my eye.

Just sliced it a little.

I found it on the ground later—

that was when I punched my first hole.

Hello self, said I to the mirror.

Hello bright red Irish-bred skin;

hello sunburn, hello regrets

and drug-masked pains:

I’ll ignore you some more,

I will. I’ll ignore any gore

I see on the news, because

I need only shut one eye.

I’ll ignore any itch I feel;

I’ll prepare myself for

the worst possible curveballs

my mind might throw my way—

I’ll ignore it, I will. But some itches

just can’t be ignored, some scabs

must be picked off in the end.

Sometimes to scratch the end

of an itch you need to dig

deep down inside yourself

to find what you’re looking for

and rip it right out of your head.