Quality & Science

Full Moon OxyContin Funeral, Big Stone Gap

by Art Van Zee, MD | June 14, 2013

Listen to the poem.

Full moon OxyContin funeral
twenty-six years old and
mother of two.
Long line through the corridor,
into the parking lot,
loved ones, friends, neighbors,
teachers and preachers, and
fellow travelers glassy eyed,
with needle tracks tucked up
under shirt sleeves,
wondering who’s next.
Pictures of you coffin aside
proud and beaming
at your dance recital
fourth grade
smiling out to us at a time when all was possible,
long before the bondage of
took it all.
A sea of flowers,
three preachers and an alto,
“Jesus, dry my tears and hold me fast”
echoes to our marrow.
And a mother so strong
to lift you up
even now.
How could we have known
that just two years later,
with sarvis blooming on the ridge
the father of your children
still married
to the needle and spoon
would also ride his last Oxy
to the banks of the River Jordan.


Dr. Art Van Zee is a primary care general internist that has worked in a Community Health Center in a small coal mining town in southwest Virginia since 1976.  He became interested in pain and addiction issues when OxyContin brought a tsunami of opioid addiction into the coal fields in the late 1990s.   He has been using buprenorphine  to treat opioid addicted patients since 2003.  He is Board Certified in both Internal Medicine and Addiction Medicine.  He authored “The Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy” published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2009.


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  1. Debbie Penrod May 05, 2019 - 11:42 AM
    reading "Dopesick " right now and it reveals what a remarkable man Dr See was
  2. Doctor Sandy Rock Apr 30, 2014 - 08:05 PM
    Sadly beautiful, Art.
  3. Mallory Fleming Aug 16, 2013 - 07:46 AM
    This is pretty nice. I love the poem, it's very medically inclined. Keep it up.
  4. Clay Shannon Jun 18, 2013 - 12:23 AM

    Thanks, Art.

    I am working on a book that will contain many poems (mine and others') reflecting my thoughts since my son's death 15 months ago today. Each will be paired with photographs I've taken in Big Sur (the web site listed above contains many of these photos).

    If you don't mind, I would like to use your poem, too. And if anybody else has such-like offerings, I'd be glad to consider including them, provided the author is willing give me the rights for one-time publication. I can provide attribution, but no royalties (I don't expect the book to make any money - nobody buys photo books). I do plan on making the book available as a free download.

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