Jennifer Perrine


The training reminds us
concealment’s not cover—a curtain
won’t stop a bullet. Who shoots? Domestic dispute,
disgruntled student, fired employee firing on employees.

The training reminds us
every day may end in red fruit. Hear
that thunder down the hall? The call of another
hunger untended, another resignation untendered.

Here’s the device to bolt
the door. If the alarm sounds, assume
fright position, assume ruin. You are the first
responder—access the tourniquet, the hemorrhage kit installed

on all levels. Assume
you have the right to hit and kick and
mean it. Yell. Get angry. Access your inner thug,
inner fiend, even though you’re not prone to violence. Do not let

a window hinder you—
better to jump than to sit. Do not
let yourself be herded into a room with one
exit. Every seven seconds, dirt turned under. The training

will be offered again
in response to this trend. It is rude
to die on our watch. We will rue shovel, turf, hinged
lid sealed shut, the gun, the gun. Not a trend but a rut. Someone

hints the shooter could be
one of us. Someone urges you: leave
work early, don’t stop running until you make it
home. Someone says it’s inevitable, our last option: dirge.

            When I first began writing, every poem was a love poem. I could find no other way to name the wonder I felt in the presence of friends and lovers and the natural workings of the world.

            As a queer person of color, though, it’s difficult to avoid the plain truth of violence even in the midst of all that beauty. Violence appears even in relationships, in revelry, in schools, in streets. The very constructions of gender and race themselves violate. No place—not even one’s own body—is safe.

            And yet, I choose not to despair. Mourning might be inevitable, but it’s not, as some would say, our only option. I hope that we can move beyond the reactive response to violence—run, hide, or fight—to real transformation, to making a world in which more lives are possible, in which more of us survive. What could be lovelier, more wonderful than that?

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