When they went to my father
to see if he wanted to raise his twelve-year-old son he couldn’t pass the simple test
of not having needles strewn all over the floor.
The words are sometimes harsh and the visualizations raw, but so is reality for Jesse-Ray Lewis. He grew up in Appalachia surrounded by violence, drug dealing, and addiction.
I held her for hours.
There was foam at her mouth
and blood as I cradled her.
I am the one who closed her eyes.
He entered foster care at age 12 and aged out of the system in 2016 at age 18.
I thought, I want that.
I want to live without walking
from nowhere to nowhere.
His poems rise up out of that shattered childhood as a quest for answers and a search for a new beginning.
Hillbilly drug baby? Maybe that’s who I came out as.
But it’s not who I want to be.
In these poems, you see a young man on a precipice, wooed by drugs and forgetfulness, but longing for something bigger and better.
I find a single droplet of hope
and choke on it.
" Unafraid, he probes our deepest fears---what would it be like to live that life? To plumb the depths of hell?" - Saundra Kelley, author of Southern Appalachian Storytellers