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The African-American poet Audre Lorde once wrote that “Poetry is not only dream and vision… It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.” Although she is describing the power of the written word, her appeal to transformation, and the courage required to imagine what was previously unimaginable, could also be a description of recovery.  

As a member of a marginalised and stigmatised community herself, Lorde also knew the power of speaking difficult truths, even when they run the risk of being dismissed, criticised, or misunderstood. “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed,” she wrote. “But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”

As we have said elsewhere on this blog, the subject of addiction remains taboo: many who have never experienced it do not, cannot, or will not understand it, which makes those affected by it afraid to speak of it freely and honestly. As long as this taboo remains, then, the importance of communicating the truth about addiction will continue to be paramount. This task can be undertaken in many ways, among which is the medium of poetry. As another poet, June Jordan, put it, “poetry is a political act because it involves telling the truth.”

The poem featured in this week’s blog is an anonymous contribution from a service user in our East locality. It is a touching tribute to the power of faith, compassion and community to heal people affected by addiction. We hope you enjoy it.

Addicts on a Journey (The Big Red Rose)

We’re addicts on a journey,

Fellow travellers on this road.

The shining light that guides us

Is a powerful big Red Rose.

The foxes have their holes,

The birds they have their nests;

God gave us that Red Rose

To help us be our level best.

With a programme for recovery

To live just day by day,

Cleansing addicts on this journey,

With humility we must pray.

That rose, it shone when all hope was gone,

It touched my heart and soul,

And let me summon newfound strength

When all of mine was spent.

Without those Red Rose angels

Bringing kindness in their smiles;

That light it shines profoundly,

Across a million miles,

And right down on this lonely street –

Not letting addicts die.

God keep that Red Rose shining bright

To help us change our ways.

With respect and love from up above

They bring us every day.

And join us all in harmony,

In their very special way.