The Spring 2020 issue of Sheila-Na-Gig online features the winner and honorable mentions of the Spring Poetry Contest. Winner Kari Gunter-Seymour pens the poignant “Trigger Warning.”
In this piece, the speaker’s son grapples with PTSD which worsens in November, the result of time in the military. The speaker’s ability to relate is limited; the closest thing she has is watching her father die, and holding dogs as they’ve died. Throughout the poem she mourns not only her father, but also “the farm boy, the quipster, / the Ren & Stimpy impersonator” who her son used to be before he “boarded the plane, now camouflaged / in anxiety meds and a skeletal body.” I really liked the use of “camouflage” here, an image that not only describes the concealing the person he was, but one that also conjures up military uniforms he once donned.
Gunter-Seymour sums up the message of the poem in two truthful lines, “We don’t get to choose our memories, / they are triggered.”