Caroline Bardwell

Knowing Tragedy

I first met Tragedy after high school.
I didn’t notice him right away.
He was in the corner, talking to my friends,
his back to me.
I still don’t know who invited him
or how he got to the party,
but once he found a way in,
his insidious grip became a stronghold.
With one swift move, our world was shattered;
a young life snatched away.
Tragedy stole his laugh,
but left clothes in his closet.
He took the mischief from his eyes,
but forgot his notebooks.

Tragedy sucked the collective air from our lungs
and then claimed the sofabed,
as we gasped for breath,
tripping over the spot
where our friend once stood –
son, brother, lover.
Tragedy finally left
when he found another place to crash.
Thankfully, he returned his key,
but I kept his security deposit.

I’ve met Tragedy a few times since those days
and narrowly avoided him on occasion.
Sometimes I see someone lurking in the distance,
but often there are no warnings.
He’s always careful
to pronounce his name very slowly,
sounding out each syllable
so I don’t forget the encounter.
Forever etching his initials in my flesh.
His blade freshly sharpened,
furrowing his brow as he concentrates.
Wounds that will heal but forever bear scars,
callouses over tender skin.

Though I know Tragedy, I never recognize him
until we’re shaking hands
and I can’t escape out the back door.
After each introduction,
I try to return to the life I was leading before,
but there is no going backwards
after you meet Tragedy.
It sparks a metamorphosis, a butterfly effect –
a life forever altered.

I think I’ve come, though, to a point of clarity.
The next time I meet Tragedy
I’ll turn the tables on him
and catch him offguard.
I’ll introduce myself first,
spelling my name very slowly,
enunciating each letter
as if sharpening blades,
and then I’ll let him know
the truth about what I’ve learned…

That warriors are not made during times of peace.
Though he aims to ruin as many lives as he can
with each appearance, he’s really creating
stronger opponents.
So perhaps Tragedy should be afraid
that he wrote down the wrong address or forgot to RSVP
and just move right along,
because there is no room at this location
for unexpected guests.


Caroline BardwellCaroline is a native of Schenectady, NY, where she works as an environmental geologist. In addition to writing poetry and reading at local poetry events, she is a landscape photographer. Much of her work pairs original photographs and writing. Her poetry, which explores universal themes from the human experience, the natural world and faith, has been published in The Society of Classical Poets, Ancient Paths, 50 Haikus, Westward Quarterly, The Faithful Creative, and Faith Hope and Fiction. She can be found online, on Instagram (@wholeheart79) and Twitter (@wholeheartpoet1).

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