I collected Goodbyes - Kate Asquith

A piece from Kendal-based poet Kate, reflecting on childhood, trauma and healing.


I collected goodbyes like lost teeth that summer
and you were already like a memory, the way
you kept coming back to me.
I know we agreed not to romanticize those years,
but nostalgia’s the only place we still talk.
Back when the days simmered and all roads led home,
when the only blurred line was the horizon in the heat.
You let ladybirds run along your fingers with
the same hand that smeared midges against the asphalt.
How could I forget? I had my own organs to hold in place.

Maybe that’s why the road is still green with the sounds
of metal. Two decades passed and I’m not certain it’s real.
I thought the hedges were taller, or maybe that’s just me.
I could stand in the same place and never see the same sight again.
Maybe that’s the lesson you learn when the corners
come loose from the road, and you make more mistakes than friends.

I’m not saying it’s the same. Just that I was grieving
before the burial. I should have remembered loss
before you reminded me.

Well, here I return, and aren’t you tired of me yet?
I keep screaming about the lives I want back.
I’ll scrape them from the grit if I must.
Over and over, pushing through the night
like it might have made a difference.
Back then, I didn’t know the signs. Now,
I mark my name on the things I cannot lose
and that’s as close as I’ll get to matrimony.

This morning I awoke, and my throat was sore.
Not from screaming, but from sleeping in the cold air.
For the first time, I wonder if it was ever about you,
and guilt hits me so hard I slip from my body,
freewheeling to the funeral.
How can that be? I named all my wounds after you.
I gave up my innocence for you. Poured out my childhood
into pierced buckets and muddy sieves. Built my home
inside your ruins, upon those shifting, gaping grounds,
and isn’t that enough?
I’m twenty-four and it feels too much.
These are the lessons I should never have learnt, and
these are the ghosts that demand to be heard.

Instagram: @kateasq

Illustrations by Kate Costigan
Instagram: @kate_costigan