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March 15, 2023


M. Alseben

Most little girls never get shards. If they do, it’s one or two around their kneecaps. But in Ms. Kassperson’s third grade class, there is a little girl whose shards come often. She digs into her skin at her desk, sifting through the flesh, searching for the tiny spike. A few times, she weeps quietly, but mostly, she screams. Ms. Kassperson sits with her while the kids are at recess, watching her pick at her leg.

There’s something about

picking knives from your thighs

that gets you young.

She wonders, sorely,

if it is too late for a paring lesson,

a way to peel this skin-peach.

And while Ms. Kassperson stifles tears into her microwave meal, the little girl sits in her room, wide awake, until another little girl sneaks across the lawn, stubs her toe on the corner of the shed, gathers some pebbles in her hand, throws them and misses completely, then shimmies up the tree, as always. They take a shard and drop it out the window, landing in the rose bushes, joining the other thorns.

Two is often too few

for an established stabbing.

Each jagged edge catches your

friend and you, too.

Your hurting hurts her hurting.

Ms. Kassperson notices that the girl stops pulling out her shards. She pushes them around beneath the surface of her skin, watching them ripple over veins and joints, too close to the surface by her wrists, too deep near her neck. She starts gathering them, pressing them into the gristle and meat of her back, aligning them haphazardly down her spine and around her ribs. She lays on them every night and eventually forgets they are there.

Sometimes, tin and steel

bits of blade get buried in us.


M. ALSLEBEN lives in a rainy place and misses living in a desert place. Some of her poetry has been published and most of her scholarship has not, though nearly all of her work is inspired by speculative fiction and digital culture. When not writing, she teaches college composition and high school language arts. She can be found @graphitecurato

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