Loud red,

fire-engine red

alarm on his arm


Emergency dispatch, please send one of each:

a cop, an ambulance, and a fire-truck.

We might need everyone.

Wet, smearing

blood, thin like water,

making doctors wonder.

“Fish oil supplements,” he answers with pique.

“I’m trying to take care of my heart.”

This is not advice.

This is not a how-to.

This is the worst f**king misuse

of a deft hand and silence.

Cutting themselves is supposed to be

something only girls do.

Boys do it, too.

The unsanitary secret: humans hurt themselves

when they’re hurting and nobody’s helping.

We break glass in case of emergencies

inflict harm so we can predict it

retake blasphemies


violence with words

or fists

or dicks

We make pain part of us

build scar tissue around it

live past shards

The topic of this poem—

a cliché that keeps welling up

from children and adults

for whom we haven’t made places

to feel safe

who still aren’t






A.L. Kander writes with her sidekick, a fearless blue fish who doesn’t realize he’s only one inch tall. Her work is published or forthcoming in Breadcrumbs, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Story Seed Vault, and beyond.