Self-Portrait as Milk Hare in Active Shooter Alert
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.
Copyright © 2019 by Traci Brimhall
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
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.
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