Bare Arms


How’s everything at school? Good…why? 
Another mother passed along a whisper: 
there’s this boy, he might have a gun. 
Should I tell you, or leave you in the dark? 
If he comes down your hallway, could I have been the warning? 
Should I tell you to collect things to throw? 
Is disarming a quality I have cultivated enough in you? 
Everything’s fine, no one is even talking about it. 
Should I tell you, my rule-following child, to run? 
That this is one of those times we’d rather make small mistakes. 
That you always have my permission to walk out of a bad situation, 
and we’ll sort it out later. 
You text later from class, ever the optimist: 
It’s lucky this is happening during photography. 
Our teacher says the dark room is the safest place to be 
in a situation like this. 
This, I think, is you dying at school. 
You sit in the dark, fear developing, while I don’t type that. 
Finally: I want to leave. 
I picture you running down empty hallways. 
a flying ponytail, and bare arms 
that I was the first to ever hold. 
Eternity contracts to fill five minutes. 
You find hallways full of police and backpacks, 
seized and searched. 
Rules broken, you run into a parking lot 
of flashing lights, and you don’t stop. 
Good girl. 
My phone alights with texts from other mothers. 
Is yours leaving? Can you get there faster? 
You can take mine too. 
The irony not lost on any of us: 
them having to give permission 
for someone else to take their child.

Nicole Kelly is a recent transplant to the Boulder area by way of Austin, Texas. She’s written poetry for as long as she can remember, but is new to publishing it.

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