The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Sharmini Wijeyesekera



Time stands up, rubs
the kinks from his
right hand, inhales
three day old
carpet breath, wonders

when did all my friend’s leave?



Sharmini Wijeyesekera



Caffeine.  Cigarettes.  Chocolate.  Cigarettes.
                      Adderrall.  Alcohol.  Caffeine.  More
             Chocolate.  Welbutrin.  Alcohol.  Dust.  Insomnia.

More Cigarettes.

             Weed.  Absinthe.  Hash.  Absinthe.  Vicodin.

                                    More Cigarettes.

                                                                   More alcohol.




Sharmini Wijeyesekera

Overheard Outside the Waffle House on Broad and Ryland


Baby, have you seen the way the train from Richmond shakes? You ain’t? But I thought I caught you lookin this way – were you curious about this here cheek scar or did you wonder where my dog come from? Well thanks miss, do appreciate your generosity – but I wasn’t just asking for your dollar. Oh I mean it’ll buy me a nice coffee or something, but I can see from those sad eyes it’s you was lookin for a little pick me up this mornin. No? Don’t be shy now, how bout you take a seat and rest a minute, I’ll roll up a smoke. Promise miss, cardboard’s fresh from the dumpster only bout 30 minutes ago, and this dog won’t bite at all, he’s much too lazy. Even lazier than me.

Now – you comfortable there, miss? – now, you were wond’rin what exactly do you get for that dollar you dropped. No, no don’t you dare try and protest – ah, look, I ain’t gonna blame you, trust me I know there’s nothing comes for free. You were wond’rin what it was like, well we all get bed bugs time to time. Mine they come and go, and more and more I can’t seem to run fast enough to outsmart ‘em, but ah, forget it! You didn’t stop to hear the rambling from this old drifter.

Still here? That curiosity gonna hurt you pretty miss, ‘cause this knowledge I got ain’t for the weak. Oh no, you gotta be brave ‘nough to crawl down to the tracks, crack a tall boy with me, wait ‘til everyone’s closed their eyes in bed, then make a run for that boxcar. I know the one that’ll take us out to St Louis. Oh baby, have you heard? That train she’s headed straight towards that American Spirit you’ve been dreaming of. And she shakes, I promise, you’ll really feel it. Your teeth’ll shiver, your bones’ll ache. your brain’ll reach new sleepless nights hallucinatin. This is the good freedom, girl. Sure you read about it in them books, but by the time them writer’s put it down it was already done for them. Pure American Spirit, beats you up a little, but a good beatin never hurt nobody too bad unless it broke them all and then you just too broke to care. Pure spirit. The freedom to live life wide-eyed, crazy, speak-your-mind drunk 10am on the town hall steps, no apologies. No goddamn apologies.

The train don’t make no rules. She don’t got time for licensing babe, don’t mess around with folks that’s too chicken shit to leave the church walls. There ain’t no prophets there, just fools spend all their time hidin from life. Scared, not sacred. Sacred’s never been confined, it’s out ringing on the streets – but you knew that, didn’t you? Yeah, thought you did, thought that’s why you sat down here. ‘Cause you got that violence pounding in your ear. Don’t it make you want to get high, girl? Get high and get high and get high – high enough to dance up on the edge of death and talk with god.

But I’m ramblin here again, please. Don’t know why you want to listen to this old drifter. You’re still young, it ain’t too late. Go home, sell yourself back to your family, tell your momma you learned your lesson from the boy she always warned you bout. I’m sure she’s a nice lady and loves you and always will. Sure they’ll all protect you – oh I didn’t have that luxury, but you’re pretty girl, so I’m sure you do. Yep, I bet it’s a nice life they’ve got for you, protected from all the pests. And you’ll be warm and comfortable, even if your eyes’ll always be sad, even if you spent every night wondrin if you could have been strong enough to survive a bottle of jack, quick enough to dodge the blows of a sour lover, would you have survived? Would you have come through all that lying on the tracks, on your back, scent of balls, sweat, blood.

Oops! Beg your pardon there, miss, didn’t mean to drop that cigarette. Tell you what, I’ll roll you another smoke, and then I got a bit of change now, we can go get those tall boys – a few for now, and maybe you can chip in and we’ll get a few to save for later too– and afterwards I’ll take you down to the tracks. No, I ain’t askin you to run away, it’s not like that, don’t worry at all. Just gonna show you what it looks like so you can solve your curiosity. And maybe if we’re lucky the yard’ll be empty of any of them crew and we can get up nice an close to the smell of that sweet creosote, close enough you can reach your hand out and feel how that that dirty old boxcar hums.

Me? I’m jumpin the train out to St Louis tonight if all goes well – you know, I’m tired of sittin around in this town an my toothache’s been actin up – only way to cure it is if I get movin. Don’t worry girl, I won’t ask you to join me - unless you wanna, of course. It ain’t glamorous. Well, I told you that already - you know I got nothin to hide. So I won’t ask you to come. You can make up your own mind when it’s time – but, just, lemme show you. Let me just show you where that beautiful boxcar’s waitin down by the tracks so you can see. It’s a great sight, miss; I promise you won’t be disappointed if you just take a look, no harm done. So I’m just gonna pop into that store, and then I’ll be back and we’ll get movin. What do you say now?




SHARMINI WIJEYESEKERA, for many years, tried really hard to drop out of society. She lived in a van. She backpacked through Asia. She survived as a musician on the mean streets of Europe. Now she sleeps in a warm London flat and writes to satisfy her wanderlust.



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