The kind you’re born with, the kind you choose, the kind that teach Catholic school
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In the early seventies
Greg and I moved back to the land.
Here, no National Guard, no protests
on the steps of Bank of America,
no hash to smuggle into Isla Vista.
We watched leaves turn copper and vermilion
while rutting elk bellowed through air so still
even the aspen refused to quiver.
The radio played country western.
The local paper came twice a month.
Outside, winter drifts swallowed
fence posts. Inside, I couldn’t feed
the smoke-stained fireplace enough
to warm the house and didn’t think
about the rifle tucked behind
his Gibson guitar in the bedroom closet.
Nights shortened, river ice shattered,
and every morning another newborn calf
shimmered among rangy herds
grazing in spring melt.
With pickax and shovel, Greg
tilled thawing dirt for our garden
but never opened the packets of seeds.
When he told me he wanted to leave this place,
I thought he meant our home.
It didn’t occur to me to hide the bullets.
The last line in Teetle Clawson’s poem “Three Seasons” [July 2015] hit hard: “It didn’t occur to me to hide the bullets.” I thought the poem was going to be about a couple returning to nature. I was surprised to find it was about suicide.
I have had bipolar disorder since the age of nineteen and have made suicide attempts in my darkest hours. Later in life I suffered a traumatic brain injury from an automobile accident. It changed my personality, affected my memory, and eventually led to my divorce.
If I’d had a gun with bullets, like Greg did in Clawson’s poem, I would not be here now.