I was a slave for 30 years of my life.
My master’s name was Cocaine.
I was an innocent young woman
when he took me into his big, strong, white arms.
His embrace was warm and tight.
He whispered to me that everything was gonna be alright.
I served him and only him—he was my God.
I was so confident and arrogant when he was with me—
I was the best looking, the best dancer,
the best lover you could ever have.
I didn’t depend on him so much in the old days—
he would usually show up on Friday nights.
Then things started to get complicated.
Every decision I made had to go through him.
He made me think I wasn’t an addict when I really was.
He made me spend almost every dollar I had on him—
he was my pimp!!
He became very hostile when I didn’t have enough money.
He made me sell my body,
he made me dance naked in front of complete strangers,
he made me have unprotected sex
because I could not make a decision
if he wasn’t inside of me.
When the HIV virus came along, he became enraged.
“It’s all your fault,” he said.
He made me give blowjobs in rat-infested alleys.
I even put guns in people’s mouths
to get everything they had.
He made me not want to look in the mirror,
he made me not want to live at all.
Well, here I am 28 days later,
my faith in the real God restored.
Cocaine lost the war, and I got my freedom back.
I’m making my way up north to start my life—
“I've always written. My mom gave me a diary when I was twelve and every day I wrote in it. As I grew up, the journals got deeper and deeper. When I was angry or hurt, I wrote. That’s how I dealt with feelings for a long time.
“Everything I wrote was just for me, until I came to the Creative Writing Workshop at ASC. My first day in the class was the first time I ever read my work to other people. Now, I'm getting better at sharing it with the world. The first time I got published, inSituations 5, it was a big step for me, because I was very nervous about the response—I thought people wouldn't like it. Now, I get a lot of feedback—especially when we do the readings at Barnes and Noble. People come up and say, 'You have so much courage.' Poetry is my life now.
“I wrote the poem 'Civil War' in a cab ride on the way home from Suffern, New York, fresh out of rehab. We were stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge. I felt so clear-headed and focused. I had a crumpled up piece of paper, and I started writing this poem. Cocaine was a big part of my life; a big part of everything I did. I’m still battling the demons. 'Civil War' takes me back to what I went through. I don't want any more of that.”
Diane Dawson has been a dedicated participant in ASC's weekly Creative Writing Workshop for three years. Her poems have appeared in Situations 5, 6, and 7, and are forthcoming in Situations 8. Diane recently graduated from the Zwickler Memorial Poetry Leadership Program at ASC, and has begun guest-teaching poetry workshops at the agency.