by Katelynn E. Carver

Katelynn E. Carver is a doctoral researcher at the University of St Andrews, earned her BA and BS from Baldwin Wallace University and her master’s from Harvard University, and has been having a torrid love affair with the written word for as long as she can remember. It’s quite possibly the best relationship she’s ever had.

There is a song—

and a song is just a poem that doesn’t quite do its job set to a tune so that it catches, so that it snags and tears and leaves a jagged footprint and niggles in your periphery; a

song is just a poem that doesn’t quite make the cut because a poem that does its job is a poem that sings all by itself, that dances a cadence without teaching the steps and holds heart in hand so that the rhythm leaps to within and is swallowed whole in breathless awe and a poem should be the play of a pulse put to words, should split clean and leave the wound thin


to bleed slow so that the line’s not jagged but the

seeping never quite gets to stop

and so it stays;

but there’s a song on a record that spins monochrome distortion and claims that it tells the story of playing the un-self and what things made for other people look like when they’re tossed aside a left to rot—

but there is

A Song.


And that particular failed poem drones on about how the armour you wear and the shield you bear and all that you live by and die; that effervescent sheen is cast against the fray to show everyone else that you’re strong. To prove






Which is important, I’m told. Is scandalous.


Not dangerous.


And yet: the precision with which the tool moves, wields to cut and define; the delicacy with which the lines blend and the shades bleed and the whole distils into a canvas woven soft and thick and writ wider, larger than any breathing living thing and when I buy mascara it’s never waterproof because it keeps the tears in until their time and when I smoke my eyes it’s not for you—and as they say


if you cannot tell if your YDK is Half Baked or your D is Urban or Kat then what matters is that the D isn’t yours, and yours isn’t wanted and once more with real feeling


This Is Not For You.


And the moment you realise that red is not for cherries or for mustangs or for lusting or for blood but is made for feeling first and at the fore and I wear it to taste it on my own mouth, in perpetuity:


That is dangerous.


It is not dangerous that the shape of my palm knew the shape of a pistol before the shape of a steering wheel, so that it seems perhaps I learned destruction before direction, but

I pulled a stillborn calf from its mother’s womb, once

it was breathtaking and heartbreaking and

my strength was not in wrenching but in packing the dirt around a


and I cried for mace in my eyes, once

burning endless for hours and I never used it again so I was its

only victim

and I was victim only to myself and

ruthless though it proves, it’s as it should be and

the fact is that I learned to weigh life before I recognised distinction, orientation or design and

those are lessons you don’t forget, those are the ones that mould and make and fill to be breathed into the world and

because they are timeless and ineffable and impossible to gun down they are the most


of all the things to know.


I have cut

a newborn’s umbilical cord and

I have laid hands

upon the dying and

I have divorced without

a wedding and it is


to contain any such multitudes,

so it seems.


It is dangerous that, when the alarm buzzes I grab the pills and do not hide them and I watch you with both eyes open as you watch me bring the bottle to my lips for feeling and I toss them back one






seven (you count seven, where I long stopped counting)

and one always sticks on my tongue, the bastard, and they taste of nothing except for that one, the white one, innocuous-uncoated and bitter like I deserve it

or like I’ve earned it and it is dangerous because

it keeps me from tasting the things that are soured harsher, deeper


I am immune to everything and nothing

and I am uncoated beneath my armour

and I walk among the wicked nonetheless and I watch you unblinking until it’s over

until I swallow and

I am dangerous.


It is not dangerous that the way that love sounds off the tongue always rolls at the end around


and starts to


and betrayal is a common thing, is a human thing, is an ordinary thing and it is dangerous to the soft parts of the self, sometimes, perhaps, but it is not


in the ways that matter.


What is dangerous is how when you replace me with something thicker than water, I will embrace you for embracing that, it, him, her. What is dangerous is that when I find you

face-down on the featherings etched in


there are no words for what you’ve done

we have no words and you will sob

and I will watch for a while

I will clench my teeth until they creak

but I will crouch beside you and help you stand

in the end

and the hand I reach toward you is dangerous.


It is not dangerous that I wear two rings on the third finger of my left hand without a



what is dangerous is the moment when those rings stop telling you that I am not and will not be


and start proclaiming that if I belong to anyone it is to



And maybe—

maybe a poem does its job,

or maybe it needs a melody but

either way it’s fertile, futile and

it’s midnight, somewhere—

And I’m tired.


I am so. tired.


And in truth: I’m not a poem. In short: I cannot do your job.


And yet the dangerous bit, that will eat you alive?


The danger is that I will not hide it. The danger is that I couldn’t if I tried. The danger is in the audacity to refuse to pretend to be what I’m not:






And there is a song, you know. About armour. Unstoppable. On a record about—


Songs, though, are just poems on the cutting room floor; pretending.


But this? This plays at nothing. This is dangerous;


This Is (not) Acting.