Night One No sleep tossing, turning wondering when you'll come home hours pass, anxiety creeps can't think straight morning light cracks my brittle shell, heart implodes I fear the worst yet hope lingers. Night Two No sleep mind wanders catastrophising, self-criticising trying to change the course of events reliving those thirty seconds of time between you being here, then not wondering if you’ll come home mind going back to that place, that time trying to orchestrate a change of events to achieve my preferred outcome then, there you’d be on the bed, already taking up too much room waiting for us to join you. Night Three Exhausted body aches, mind shakes tears, more tears, endless tears, exhaustion, finally dreamless, fitful sleep no desire to wake and face reality, there are no answers to my why’s and how’s no respite from existential angst. Night Four Delirious trying to send a message into the abyss, nothing, it's just a void can't see you, hear you, feel you this altered reality is untenable, I want to stay on guard but the body craves sleep, dreams come but they provide no answers about why you ran where you've gone, or whether you are even alive. I gather possible answers but they are tumbleweeds, ever moving, fragile scatterers of impotent seeds Night Five. Yet another cycle on the calendar of doom I accept all responsibility, I failed you – I am a failure In this game of life you're not the first to go, just the latest in a long line of losses, but this is the hardest blow. Still hoping, as the edges of hope blur into acceptance and I hate my hardened heart for its ability to bear the loss of you, my little mate who was there for me, unquestioning for almost ten years, Night Fifteen You have almost faded from my memory, I no longer listen for your sweet cat sounds as you arrive home after an adventure. I am so empty without you but I must not dwell in case my heart, fast-glued should fracture yet again.
Contextual Essay: In June 2022, shortly after moving to a new location at some distance from our former home, my husband and I were isolating due to Covid19 when my cat Leo made a sudden decision to bolt. A gift from my daughter almost ten years earlier when I was experiencing a particularly difficult series of events, Leo was more than a pet, he was my friend and companion as I mapped out and navigated a new life path. His loss, which I have now accepted as final, has taught me a lesson about the impermanence of life and the need to accept the things I cannot change, even as I continue to mourn.
Julia Kaylock is a widely published poet who also occasionally writes prose. She is also an editor and publisher at litoriapress.com. Julia co-edited (with Denise O’Hagan) anthologies of poetry Messages from the Embers: from devastation to hope (Black Quill Press, 2020) and Poetry for the Planet: an anthology of imagined futures (Litoria Press, 2021). Her memoir in verse, Child of the Clouds was published in September 2021 (Litoria Press). Julia has worked as a career coach, counsellor, adult educator, journalist and feature writer. These days, assisting other writers to tell their stories is an honour and a privilege. Julia lives in North-Eastern Victoria, Australia and enjoys exploring her beautiful country.