Mary Slocum, 11/7/2011

Current Occupation: retired social worker

Former Occupation: 17 year shipyard electrician

Contact Information: A poet since she was 14, Mary Slocum was the last winner of the Portland Artquake competition in the 90s and a winner of Washington State Poetry Assn. humorous poetry competition in the 90s. Mary Slocum has been published in Stanza, NW Literary Review, Upper Left Edge, Tradeswomen’s Network Newsletter, Black Cat, Portland Alliance, Work and Carcenogenic. She enjoys reading more than publishing and has also appeared with a comedy collective. Presently working on a complete collection and some of which is on her website:


Great Expectations

For $70,000 they gave me a Masters in Social Work,
Expecting to , “Do no Harm”,
Be of service, Fix the broken,
Services purported to care.

Got my first job
County Mental Health Clinic,
Hangin with schizophrenics
And their voices,
I was in my element.
Politics, beaurocracy, funding
Cuts dropped like a rock
In clients puddled in the street,
Rippling out to the community.
Homeless for the first time in their lives,
And management
let me tell them they were homeless.

Charged for meds that kept them
“Stable”. Complained about
By Christian neighbors
In the grocery line. Boss
Chewing social workers out for our clients
Making their neighbors uncomfortable.
Peeking behind the curtain
Wizard now lacking arms
Could no longer deny
I volunteer for the layoff
So the budget would balance.
And I can
Do No Harm.

Got the second job
Pushing Methadone
To addicts poor and homeless.
Believed it was treatment.
Same curtain, different wizard.
Loved the groups, loved the people trying,
Loved to help until I focused.
On the business, It was a business.
Charged for dosing.
Methadone eats calcium from bone,
Curtain flapping in the breeze.
Clients with walkers after years of “Treatment”
For this illness of addiction.
Taught that relapse was a symptom,
Saw them cut the dose to punish for the symptom.
Withdrawal price for illness,
Methadone more addictive medication than when they started
Do No Harm.

Curtain billowing.
Relapse. A limit to the number of groups
you can attend
After the hook is set. “Do No Harm”
Pounding in my ears
Support allowed only once a month
Makes it hard to schedule cravings
I let anyone in my groups that showed up.
Got busted, got fired,
Happy now I could “Do No Harm”.
Expectations filling.

Got foster girls, thought I might be effective.
Got threatened. Had my furniture thrown at me.
Laser shot anger focuses burning through my skull
Laughter dies in my home.
Asked for medication management.
Told it was a once a month privilege
Got bit, kicked and hit.
Watched her try to kill my dog, kill her fish.
Never knew there could be so much anger in
Such a small package, I was paying for their damage by their system,
I too was angry.
Still wanted to Do No Harm.
Decided I needed to help myself.
Left the program, stayed in bed for months.
Lost all faith in humanity to be human.
Lost like dust bunnies under a couch.

Got an e-mail
Class on “How to tell your client
You have no resources.” “How to handle their frustration
When you tell them the truth.
Behind the curtain. That you have no services.
$125 to change your expectations to, “Do No Harm”.

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