I did not leave you

Katrina Kaye

due to the dirty dishes
or unrepaired holes in
the plaster. It was the
silence of your eyes.
Their passion drained
of all its red, the red
I once watched crawl
across your bed, before
it was our bed when I
was still chasing
dreams of migration.
It was the daily dregs
which cut the ropes of
our first love. The
terrible expression of
your day sipping cheap
beer just to get you
to sleep. It was when
we stopped going to bed
together and just slept
in the same place among
slightly different time
lines. The crack it left
was too severe and too
close to the skin. My
temperament dulled, the
anxiety that kept me bent
over kitchen sink has
dissipated and now I let
the dust collect on window
sill till it turns to mud
in the morning dew.

Previously published in Madness Muse Press (2020).

Cut Away

Katrina Kaye

My aunt’s breasts did not murder her.
But they fell,                     one by one,
overripe fruit.
I remember she said
once they were gone,
she didn’t feel much like a woman
anymore.

After the first surgery
she showed us her stitched skin.
The higher part bronzed from summer sun,
roughly stapled to once upper abdominal white.

She had no nipples.
It was a graceless realization.
She would eventually have picturesque replicas tattooed on.
Eventually implants would replace the smooth boy chest.
Desperate to become woman again.

It was the curve of my mother’s hips
that lead to her betrayal.
A wanton child nestled in uterus waiting
impatiently to spread,
to creep into belly,
to stretch into tubes and ovary,
submerge in blood.

Sound waves revealed a tumor
embedded in endometrial lining.
I recall the subtle understanding:
sonograms are not just for spying
unborn children.

The surgeons left a scar from belly button downward
where womb was pulled from body.
Similar to a caesarian incision,
only deeper.

These parts,
breast, uterus,
methodically removed,
the woman cut from our beings.
Never knowing how much
they would be missed
until they were gone.

What offense deemed us unworthy
of these precious female features?
The landscape, gifted without asking,
now taken despite pleas.
This anatomy that defined us women,
what is left when it is gone?

Was it the deep throaty
voice of my aunt that frightened
the feminine away?

Were my mother’s hands
too masculine to hold a
womb any longer?

Will I pay for the sins
of a barren belly and one
too many late nights
matching pints with the boys by having
the female raped from my body
with cold scalpel and surgical staples?

The women of my family
are blessed with beautiful breasts,
curved hips, and a predisposition of cancer.

We women of shared blood,
of mirrored images and reflective habits,
who can’t quite quit cigarettes,
who have a weakness for men who drink too much,
who are so giving of our time,
our lives, our flesh,
we still miss these parts that are cut away.

“Cut Away” was previously published in Treehouse Arts in January, 2019.

Explore Treehouse Arts here.

At the Poetry Reading

Katrina Kaye

I notice you
looking at me
across the bar.
We exchange a smile,
and I lower my eyes
to your stare.

It is lifetime since
I washed your
scent from my body,
yet I still shiver
from the remnants of
your touch.

I allow this.

I wonder who notices.
I wonder if they
smell the sex in the air;
if the stain of seduction
is as apparent as the
cigarette smoke which
halos overhead.
Can they tell
I want to touch
you from across the room?

I know you are nothing
more than a two o’clock
storm that flashed through a
New Mexico afternoon drenching me
in an uncontrollable downpour
before passing soundlessly over
the horizon.
I know the monsoons
of summer dry fast
when the sun revives.

Yet, during all the
reading and reciting,
the poetry and music,
the confessions poured across stage
eager for attention,
acknowledgment, acceptance,
I can do nothing but
summon the soft of
your skin under my nails.

“At the Poetry Reading” is previously published on Rabbits for Luck (2016).

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.