there are men with guns across the street

some women, too; in uniforms

weapons propagated on forearms

leashed dogs and blockading cop cars

scene is not safe, the first thing 

they teach you in EMT school

I turn back to my phone screen


he’s getting existential again

I read the message, ask if he’s alright

I don’t know what it means if there’s no afterlife

only that I’ll be dead, which is enough

to be liberated from this life

I read the message, ask if he’s alright


one officer dips between two houses

and shrubs; another, through a cluster of trees

someone must say something—

I watch ten of them go running, 

hands are blades cutting through winter air

guns held closely to hips and thighs

witnessing, from the inside of the library

wondering if we’ll get a call from Campus Safety

‘bout the adults sprinting with firearms, the

streets clogged like high-cholesterol arteries, the

blue flashing lights anyone from any window could see

just because, I reason, they have badges

doesn’t mean weapons can’t be ripped from their hands

scene is not safe, the first thing 

they teach you in EMT school

didn’t think that was something

you needed an education to know


he shoots back single syllable words

and I know I’ve lost him to all the things

he is collecting, conceptualizing, catastrophizing

I wonder if I really will see him later, like he says

I wonder if that stack of bottles and cans in the kitchen

will grow, accumulate into something dangerous

something I’ll look at, take a deep breath 

and think, It’s not my busine—


“Excuse me,” I look up at the man asking me,

“I know you’ve been sitting here. Did you see anything?”

he gestures across the street; since I don’t know who he is,

if he’s the one they’re hunting for

(we’ve had criminals in the library before)

I shake my head, answer, “No,” and

wonder when my phone will ring

with the official statement to explain

why a quarter of campus is blockaded

with Kalamazoo County cop cars

I think, Campus Safety does a shit job

at quelling the rising panic in the population

because it is happening, the growing attention

people flocking near windows, afraid to get too close

tension pulling at the air, even in the quiet of the third floor


he’s not responded; he’s gone

I swallow the upset, the worry; I go to class

outside, the men and women still move

with calculated precision; I’ve lost interest 

been on too many scenes where it was me

telling officers what to do, commanding their movements

ever since, I’ve been disenchanted by their power


two hours later, Campus Safety sends

an email, says The college was never in danger

yet the presence of guns, I argue, in anyone’s hands

is a threat, variable & dangerous, something 

my old partner would call a clusterfuck

whatever, I think, denial just wouldn’t be my tactic


I don’t hear from him again

don’t rush to his apartment after class

because last time—last time his door was locked

he was asleep, and I grew so heartbroken and sad, 

I was sick for half a week, hollow and defeated

broken promises and it’s-no-one’s-fault

scene is not safe, the first thing 

they teach you in EMT school

it’s not something you need 

an education to know

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