Days leading up to your suicide,
you said might be COVID, said better
keep my distance, said the fridge
was stocked, said fine, just fine,
said you dreamed us young
riding rockets made of tin and wire,
said the crows would give you no peace,
said Rubber Soul was the best album
ever wrought, said God, you loved
thunderstorms, rain puckering the soil,
said you wished you’d painted
your toenails, memorized bird calls,
said your cell phone was about to die,
said my voice was an echo
of our mother’s broom …
It wasn’t my mother’s passing—
we had time, tears, last goodbyes.
Or my sister’s slipping away—
questionable, her affairs all in order.
Not the obits for the first of her four husbands,
my aunt or third cousin. Not the countless
drowned in Kentucky, the endless
body-bagged in Ukraine.
It was my granddaughter’s cat—
opinionated, hiss-spitting, touched
rarely and only on its terms.
When it purred, rubbed its knobby head
against your proffered knuckles, you knew
you’d earned some kind of merit badge,
an induction into the ranks of the give-a-damns,
a foothold among the fearless, a hold-on-
to-your-ass plummet into the now-whats?
Kari Gunter-Seymour is Poet Laureate of Ohio, founder/executive director of the Women of Appalachia Project, and editor of its anthology series Women Speak. Her work has been featured in The New York Times,Poem-a-Day, Verse Daily, and World Literature Today.website