If I must be armed

If I must be armed
let it not be with cold
metallic instruments. Flowers
will do the trick. You may howl
at floral defense, try to worm
pistols into my moonlit
fingers, but I’ll have no moonlit
subterfuge. If I must be armed,
I’ll throw guns to the ground. Worms
can make homes of them in the cold,
shelter while winter winds howl,
then emerge to churn under springtime flowers.
If I must be armed, I’ll fit pink flowers
in each barrel, shoot petals in moonlit
massacres, the only howl
my own feral salute. If I must be armed
I’ll stow them all away in glacial cold,
plant jungle gyms for ice worms.
Must every bullet worm
its way into a heart? Must all flowers
grace a grave, rest in cold
comfort of a eulogy, witness moonlit
visitations from hollow-eyed, armed
penitents, bear the howl
of anguish come too late? Go on, howl
at pacifists, call me a worm
too cowardly to want to be armed.
All I need are flowers,
not flowing blood, not some moonlit
fantasy of bravery, not cold
metal in hot hands. The world is often cold
but I won’t howl
for lack of firepower. A moonlit
pasture will suffice. The worms
below are plenty. With flowers,
I am adequately armed.
My skin is moonlit, fragile but not cold.
I dance, infinitely armed. I whirl and howl
and thump hello to worms. I sing, and up come flowers.



Tara Campbell

Tara Campbell is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, fiction co-editor at Barrelhouse Magazine, and graduate of American University's MFA. In addition to previous Flame Tree anthologies, prior publication credits include Wigleaf, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Star*Line, Apparition Lit, and Rigorous. She's the author of a novel, two hybrid collections of poetry and prose, and two short story collections from feminist sci-fi publisher Aqueduct Press. Find her at www.taracampbell.com.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, August 21, 2023 - 15:09