“Last Text from Gabby Petito” by Susan Doble Kaluza

Susan Doble Kaluza


No service here, but at least I’m free
from the cage bars of my body;
remember what I’d blogged in observation
of birds, chipmunks fattened on the scraps
left in abandoned campsites in the cold
after the fires are snuffed out, and the stars—
oh, these stars—how they’re arranged

without number, and how they disclaim
the disappearances inferred of them,
but instead declare the secrets upon
which all darkness preys. Insects

I doodled on notecards
and sent home already will testify
of my whereabouts—imagine the how,
the when, the why revealed in the
caricature of the dragonfly—
I’ve lain looking up so long,
the windswept grass retains
the shape of my body, moonlights
as my spine; after the rain,
the sky in some parallel agony
soaked out of me some heavier
silence I’d always felt in the earth,
and to it, a kind of mooring far more
real than the live honeysuckle
and wild licorice I could almost
smell; and the caddis with their assorted
thoraxes retract into clipped
thumbnails and cut
grass; their buds—my own
body—are, to the pile of ants,
a worthy and contrite fodder.

What astonishing weight
my own thoughts make
at the moment, the unravelling
of many ropes set to anchor;
think tie-dyed everything,
the clasping peppergrass
and what lies in the green water
under algae, what sloshes through
the culverts mixed with sand
and gravel. Please know I was not
gunned down or knived in half,
but cast on a spit; I was spun
clay on the wheel of a potter.
He created the soul of me.
He loved me, then hated me.
He hated me, then kissed me.
He kissed me, then hit me.
The ocean of him swept
over me, a certain, undocumented
upwelling, of all the places we’d been,
cheap-shotted and piece-mealed out
to sea; and even here I am writing
in my mind that knows nothing but
to feel my heart leap out and breathe
into me everything that had died
in it before.

from Poets Respond
September 26, 2021


Susan Doble Kaluza: “This poem is written as though Gabby were texting her mother from where she was left. As we know, her last text was thought not to be from her, and stated merely that there was no service in Yosemite. The poem is, of course, based on the information published, which collectively, through a 911 call and police bodycams, reveal both physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her boyfriend. When her body was identified and her death ruled a homicide, I wrote this poem as if she were writing about her own death and what she was feeling in the end. As a travel blogger, she loved in-depth descriptions, and outside of her blog, social media accounts, and texts to her mother she had no voice in what was happening to her. I believe, as I believe about all victims of domestic and partner abuse, that she was hiding the truth from her family—and is also common in abuse victims—protecting or shielding her abuser. I wrote this poem in the first person to draw close to her in a way that would help me feel what she felt in those last moments. The plants described in the poem are common in western states, including Wyoming, and not necessarily the ones that grow in the specific area where she was found. This poem is also a tool to bring much needed awareness to domestic and partner abuse.”

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