because the boy with the bike whose handlebars held you

from South High to home would see the bruises you got

when you jumped off too early.

picking scabs might leave scars,

your mother said as she removed gravel

from cuts with your legs extended on the bathtub’s edge.

bulky bandages exposed the truth

faster than you could disagree.


but that was long ago and you’re grown now,

or you want to be, legs extended

in a skirt far above your knees, so that the boy with the bike

might look a little too long.

you wait to pick the scab until it’s just right,

when it’s ready to jump off anyway,

the skin nude colored enough to keep this secret.


if you pick too early,

the boy might not let you ride again,

might say it’s too dangerous,

look at your scar, he might say,

as if it’s proof that his handlebars

shouldn’t hold this blame.



by Chavonn Williams Shen

Chavonn Williams Shen is a Minneapolis native and an educator. She was the first place winner for the 2017 Still I Rise grant for African American women hosted by Alternating Current Press and a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee. She was also a 2017 Best of the Net Award finalist, a winner of the 2016-2017 Mentor Series in Poetry and Creative Prose through the Loft Literary Center, and a 2016 fellow through the Givens Foundation for African American Literature. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in: Beecher’s Magazine, The A3 Review, and The Coil, as well as other journals. A graduate of Carleton College, Chavonn is currently pursuing her MFA in creative writing at Hamline University.

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