Self-Portrait as Milk Hare in Active Shooter Alert

Traci Brimhall

We plan our escape from our basement classroom.My students share memories of school shooter drills.I share what police advise—run. Trees blush and undress,but the scratching outside our window is not the deadwe fear to be. Today in the news I read rediscovered storiescollected by Irish schoolchildren of household medicineand hags who became rabbits to lap milk from cows, thoughI don’t know why a witch would need to, why she couldn’t sayI’m a mother like you, hold her own cream in her cupped palmfor the cow’s rough tongue, and ask for the kindness returned.The moon occults the stars in Taurus, and my son performshis sadness over an otter that died at the zoo. He blinks slowand sniffles back octaves of salt. I don’t know where he learnedto do this, to be an understudy to the keening of trees plantedtoo close to houses. I read him Runaway Bunny and say I wouldchase him though all his transformations—be the gardenerto his crocus, the wind to his sailing ship, the tightrope walkerwhen he learns the trapeze so we can both be creatures of air.One student says we can use him as a stool to climb fromthe window well to the lawn. I am glad someone wants to diefor the rest of us. I don’t want to give my son a herofor a mother. I want to go home to him. I want him to lose meafter years of hugs, arguments, and medically acceptable suffering,and I would take this student’s offering to leap from his back,like the milk-hare a farmer shot, and then went to confronthis neighbor for stealing, only to find her in bed, human again,holding her bleeding head. The farmer warned her thirsty tonguethough he knew, as everyone did, that bullets won’t kill witches.I will not die for these students. Or kill for them. I would drawon whiskers and pull myself from this concrete burrow, dodgecracks in the air, aim for the gentle corrections of trees’ shadows.My body small enough for hiding. My ears so large they can hearmy name in my son’s prayer—red as the fear that will keep meon earth, black as blood in moonlight, in the fur that twitches backto skin again, my son’s arms safely around my neck, his milkteethand bubblegum cheeks breathing, breathing, oh, still alive.

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Traci Brimhall is the author of three collections of poetry: Saudade (Copper Canyon Press), Our Lady of the Ruins (W.W. Norton), and Rookery (Southern Illinois University Press). Her next collection, a hybrid of essays and poems, Come the Slumberless from the Land of Nod, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon in 2020. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Slate, The Believer, The New Republic, Orion, and Best American Poetry 2013 & 2014. She’s received a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and is currently an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Kansas State University.

Number 95 Spring 2019

Charleston, South Carolina

College of Charleston

Poetry Editor
Emily Rosko

Associate Poetry Editor
Gary Jackson

Contributing Editor & Poetry Translations
Scott Minar

Managing Editor
Jonathan Bohr Heinen

Founded by the poet Tom McGrath in Los Angeles in 1960, Crazyhorse continues to be one of the finest, most influential literary journals published today. Past contributors include such renowned authors as John Updike, Raymond Carver, Jorie Graham, John Ashbery, Robert Bly, Ha Jin, W. P. Kinsella, Richard Wilbur, James Wright, Carolyn Forché, Charles Simic, Charles Wright, Billy Collins, Galway Kinnell, James Tate and Franz Wright. Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners alike appear regularly in its pages, right alongside Guggenheim fellows, National Endowment for the Arts fellowship recipients, and writers whose work appears in the O. Henry Prize, Pushcart Prize, and Best American anthologies.

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