On Caring and Other Addictions

By Regan Schell


Empathy is a disease,

but one that kills you lovingly.

I’ve never cared more

about anything ever

than I care about everything


I live my life in shades of red,

pale pink for the slightest twinges

of deep-rooted heart pangs,

and bloody crimson for the passion,

the scream-worthy horrible

that coats my tongue

with sticky bitterness.


Empathy is a disease,

but I will be relieved when I die of it.

It’s a bone-ache, a heart-throb,

a scourge that weighs

my eyelids down like lead.

It bites my ankles,

endlessly urging me forward

like a strung-up carrot,

like a boot spur in the ribs,

and I am simply

terminally exhausted.


Empathy is a disease,

and I wish it were contagious.

An airborne plague,

afflicting the comfortable,

burning with something like rage,

like fear, like urgency.

Blood-boiling white-hot anger,

enough to do something,


instead of raising lily-white

Rapunzel towers

and polishing silver platters.


Empathy is a disease,

but I will let it take me.

It’s not some cancer you can battle,

And I’m not a warrior.

So you can find me,

swept up, caught in a heart-string net,

letting the waves crash

over my head, lungs burning,

hoping that all of this

will mean something.