Home was a sub-rosa candy shop. Goodies laced with toxic lead. Paint cracked and chipped where my bed met the wall. Chalky, saccharine shards dissolved on my tongue as my mother and brothers slept. Landlord was too busy,

(rent collection,
rat traps,

                                  too cheap to deal
with my addiction. 

As a six-year-old junkie, I had too many tells. Insomnia kept me up; Arsenio Hall kept me company. Tummy aches to rival post-Halloween mornings. Chronic inability to connect dots, color within lines. Staggered steps on the schoolyard. Scraped knees like track marks.   

Got used to the doctors, the nurses, and their needles. Brave and anemic, I presented both arms to them all. Sample after tainted sample siphoned from elusive veins. Lollipops and stickers on my horizon – bills and woes on Mami’s. 

New doctor with an odd office. White and cold and shiny space replaced by wood and books and couches. No pills or pricks, just probes into budding thoughts and feelings.

                                                                  Colorful blocks
and tiles as toys:
painless puzzles:
cognitive tests.            
Lawsuit filed.
Give us a fortune,
                                                                  Insurance Man.
We deserve it.

Suit settled for 200K, for only brain death merits a million. Poison paid my way through college. During which, my mouth swelled with

pen caps
hot wings
lady toes . . .         
                                                                                                     I never learn.

"This piece was composed under the divine tutelage of Denise Duhamel. During her workshop, I was to turn in a new poem every week. Sometimes we were assigned to experiment with forms, other times, with content. My piece was workshopped during a content week, and we were to write childhood poems. What I turned in was a rough draft of 'Toxic Fixations' – the whole of what I can remember as a sickly kid coming up in Queens. Mired in Freud's oral stage, I was the reason companies put 'KEEP OUT OF CHILDREN'S REACH' labels on their products. The walls of our pre-war apartment in Sunnyside, however, did not come with such a warning. So, I set out to explore how one tiny bad habit was able to, at first, threaten my life and, later, enrich it." 

Miguel Pichardo is currently an MFA candidate in fiction at Florida International University and assistant editor of the program's publication, Gulf Stream Magazine. Though he prefers crafting long and artful lies, he started off by writing poetry in third period Algebra. He still doesn't know what polynomials are. This is his first published piece, ever. He is thrilled to be here.