Come Back

Katrina Kaye

You looked in the mirror
before you did it. You cut
off all your hair in misshapen
awkward chunks, some spots
clean to your scalp.

You didn’t leave a note, but
two days before you killed
yourself you gave me your
grandmother’s watch,

told me
you never wore the dented heirloom
and it didn’t fit your slim wrists,

said,
it would look better on me.

When I pointed out that it no
longer worked your shrugged and
simply stated, “time is a silly thing.”

I stand at your funeral
consumed by the list of frivolities I
didn’t know about you, overwhelmed
by the uselessness of words and the
futility of remorse, devastated by
the continuance of the ordinary.

The sun rose this morning, but the
winter chills me to the core.
The radio continues to play and I
know all the words to one song
after the other.

Cara, we will never
sing together again. We will never
exchange excuses of why we would
should postpone a date or how it
it is so lovely to be alone.

It has been over
one hundred days and
all I can say is
come back.

“Come back” is previously published in Anvil Tongue (2022).

Comrades

Katrina Kaye

When I was fourteen,
I curled in the darkness of the downstairs den
to watch hours of coverage over
the suicide of Kurt Cobain.

You know the story.
Shotgun to the head, metal in mouth,
eyes squeezed shut.

Lips chapped with theories.
They blamed at his wife,
his life, his notes, his moods,
his success, the drugs in his blood,
the lines of suicide note.
Hungry for justification.

Of course it was suicide.

Those of us licked by black feathers
under the skin understand.
We who have traveled
the dark waves of ebbing depression,
we know.

When Estrella took too many pills
last summer, the kids at school said it
was to get attention,
that she was a drama queen who
missed her cue.

Her act was selfish,
a little too much teen angst,
she didn’t deserve the tears,
the pity, the memorials.

But I knew her.

Have you ever stared at the kitchen knife in the sink,
wiped it clean of rinds and grease and imagined
how easy it would slip into your belly?

Have you counted the pills in the container,
letting them drop, one by one by one,
into the orange plastic just to see if there were enough?

Have you felt a tremble rush through your hands
as you held the weight of pistol, shotgun, revolver
the chill of the metal reminding you
just how simple, how quick?

Then you could accept this loss without question,
recognize a suffering embedded in the webbing
of circuitry and nervous habits.

We are silent soldiers,
comrades lined along the same front,
painting our face and donning our camouflage.
Every day we wade into battle
our enemy, unseen and indestructible,
all we can do is suspend the inevitable.

When I learned Tommy hung himself,
my reaction was closer to relief than surprise.
Elena was already brain dead by the time
they revived her, a beating heart cadaver they
harvested to save the lives of others.
The weeks after Nathaniel shot himself in the head
I thought of nothing but the white teeth of his smile.

Patrick left the needle hanging from his arm,
Greggory used his .45,
Amanda bled herself dry.
There is still a single .22 caliber bullet
rattling around in my stepfather’s skull.

It is not a whim,
more than a momentary loss of reason.
It is a lifetime of guilt, shame, and sadness
pressed into a tight ball in the gut.

If you’ve never felt this way it is easy
to negotiate conspiracy theories,
it is easy to doubt, to dismiss.

But for the rest of us,
all we can do is sit in silence,
knowing another comrade lost his war.

“Comrades” is previously published in #TrueStory 2015.

Hemingway’s Curse

Katrina Kaye

My mind creeps over you with the thin legs
of a moth. You are unmarked, intent on
your stare, the same seriousness all men
believe they have, but you…
You pull it off.

This is the night you cried on me;
do you remember?

You sob silent from the chair in your
living room, ask if you are doomed,
fated to stiff drink and solitude.
Ask if one day, you will hold barrel to
temple, as your father did and his
before. Ancestral curse shrouds shoulders.

I offer no answers
and you have run out of words.
As I rise to leave, you clutch my arm,
say, “don’t go.” And I stay.
Your eyes have a way of making me
stay.

This is not a novel; not a news reel in
black and white; not a story a thousand
times told. It is between you and me.
It’s a memory;
do you remember?

We are not lovers, only oddly shaped
friends, forever awkward with each other,
but there is something about that night,
the questions confided, the grip on my
arm, the tear running unabashedly down cheek,
that made me realize I am necessary.

“Hemingway’s Curse” is previously published in Catching Calliope Vol 4, 2014.