Jef Otte

Liturgy for the Drug Addict and Scoundrel

T. Washington Tremens



Let us now gather to snort blow off the dashboards

of Lincoln Continentals and dial our radios,

miss the road arcing left of our straightaway,

and let us heed no guardrail.

            And let us take flight, yea, Lord fling our Lincolns

winging like blackbirds into the night of Flagstaff Pass

and deliver us to detox, and let us there bailed awaken

on Friday with bruises that by Sunday heal. Amen.



Lord, they tell me I shouldn't be alive

Lord, they tell me I shouldn't be alive

But here I am, Lord, heart beating, still breathing

And every cell in my body still pleading

Lord, they tell me I shouldn't be alive.



So the Lord's People went out from Jefferson County

and fit into the devil's groove like a needle


that shoots shit in the vein and plays music

with each red blood cell and every vacuole thrumming


The Lord's people were flitting like sparrows

when they violated probation


and sold phony tickets to three bros in sports jerseys.

Those guys came back and told the Lord's People


what's what, caved in the Lord's People's eyebone

just to prove it, and called it citizen's arrest.


Now the Lord's people don't mind

the long-hour lockdown; the Lord's people killing time


working out and reading the Economist.

Sons of wealthy men spending commissary cash


and waiting out the burning bush.



I hope it hurts.



I may be a wretch, but at least I know it, I made a list

of all the license plates I stole,

and the people I wrote checks I knew would bounce to

and all the money that I owe.


I don't know why this wretch was saved, while another

trembles in bed and shits,

why my body strained like a compass needle

            to the magnetic north of a fix

                                                            and I didn't take it.


The Lord bless you and keep you

for his own pet. The Lord bless you

and keep you in the tall cage

the Lord locks with a brass key

the Lord blesses and keeps

in the pocket of the Lord. The Lord

bless you and keep you, pretty

blackbird, keep you from the harm

you do yourself.


The Lord bless you and keep you

from rig and foil, the Lord bless you

and hem you, bless you and pen you,

bless you and lock you up.


The Lord bless you and keep you

in three hots and bless the rot

that creeps into your dreams, the rot

that licks the corners, the rot

that gnaws the foundation, until the house

crumbles around the naked man

shitting in the bathtub and trying to hide.


O bless it, Lord, bless the infection

that burns the body clean. Amen.

The Illusion of Distance


Then as time reels you like a fish toward its horizon

you discover the illusion of distance: everything


is smaller. Tiny days in miniature months,

like matches in a matchbook. Each ignites,


one after one, flares, flickers. Or maybe this: seasons flicker

like subway cars


through an empty station, no, abandoned, reeling dust

and garbage in the backdraft. The train issues


from its tunnel and, see: only a model, passing

the dollhouse. You emerge from the dollhouse, gaze


toward the dilating horizon, the expanding

horizon. But let’s call it what it is.


Time flies. Time flies like a bird alighting on a wire

for just a moment.


C.S. Lewis declares the present the point at which time

touches eternity. The bird perches on


the horizon, or the edge of the opening universe

(you being the size of a bird and growing


smaller) hurling open at incredible speed

and devouring nothing.


Jef Otte is a writer and journalist whose work has previously appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Copper Nickel, SPIN Magazine, Village Voice, and other journals and news outlets. He also can juggle, but is not good at it. He's currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing at Western Michigan Universityrecently ranked west Michigan's third-sexiest institution of higher learningand lives in Kalamazoo with his tenacious wife and two sons.



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