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.

For Amanda

Katrina Kaye

When I learned someone I love killed herself,
the first thing I think is where I was when it happened.

I think about the last
thing I said to her and how many days
ago I said it. I realize how trivial words are.

The next thing I do is picture the scene as described.
I can see it to the smallest detail, the sweat on her palm,
the quiver of lips, and the dust on window ledge.
I can clearly imagine the cat hair left on the carpet
as the last thing you saw as you rested head to floor.

Amanda,
you were never much of a house cleaner.

It’s not long before
I start playing the what ifs,
the untuned strings of what happened,
what I should have said,
where I should have been.

Amanda, I did not answer the phone the last time you called.
I didn’t stay for one more drink after your insistent invite.

Amanda, I didn’t know your favorite color
and I can’t remember the name of your cat.
I didn’t know you spent your last birthday
alone at a bar waiting for friends who never showed.

But I remember the night we jumped the fence
and walked through the graveyard
passing a bottle between us.
You taught me the name of each of the twelve moons
and laughed at me when I forgot the lines to my favorite song.

Amanda,
The last time I saw you,
you grabbed my arm and said thank you.
Told me of the ten people you
called this evening I was the only one who called back,
I was the only one who showed up.

I know what it’s like to feel that alone,
to summon the courage to send a message
only to receive no reply.
I know the disappointment of misplaced loyalty.
I, too, confuse friendships with propaganda
and a kind smile for a kind heart.

Amanda,
I wasn’t there that night.
I didn’t follow the crumbs,
didn’t decode your hints,
I wasn’t there to save you.

But you should know,
that was the only time.

Because, now, every day
I mouth the words I should have said.
Every time I reach out I pull
your body next to mine.
I have been your champion,
your savior, every time I close
my eyes for the last 217 nights.

But you aren’t around to see the sizes of my heart.
You are gone and if you gave the foresight
to wave your flag in my direction,
I was looking the other way.

Amanda, did no one tell you the definition
of your name is “worthy of love?”
Did no one tell you “you are loved?”
Would it have mattered?
Was your mind already made up?
I don’t know if there is anything I could have done
to truly make a difference,
but I do know
I would give anything to have answered that call,
to hear you laugh at me again.
to stay for one more drink.

“For Amanda” is previously published in Anti Heroin Chic, December 2018.