“Things That Happen” by Emmalee Hagarman

Emmalee Hagarman


“Tall people die sooner,” her aunt tells her. The girl is ten—
she doesn’t know if it’s true. When her aunt puts a butter (not
steak) knife beside his plate, her uncle knocks it off
the table. He hates when she does shit like that, and can’t

she wait till he tells her to serve dinner?
Never mind her aunt skipped breakfast and lunch
to eat at the house-warming party—that each time
the razor nicked her thigh, her skin split

like a soft tomato. Two towns over a girl’s father comes
back from jail. The girl asks her mom, “Shouldn’t he get locked
up longer than a night for beating on you?” In Brooklyn,
a father and mother tell their daughter the cost

of a bullet is less than a dollar—meaning her life is very cheap—
meaning she must marry a man in Yemen, or die.
“These things happen” is a thing the girl hears her aunt
say at dinner when she doesn’t have anything

to say. Women in Texas can bring guns, not dildos, to class,
and a Florida shooting range now serves alcohol. The girl
has never seen her uncle shoot, but he can.
Things happen like, her aunt wouldn’t let him hold

the girl when she was born. Like, someone shot a deer
with a BB gun and the girl thought its blood
looked human. She’s never seen her uncle hit her aunt,
but he does. Her aunt picks the knife

up. The moment passes. This is their new house.
There is good food on their plates, and the girl’s aunt
is beautiful. After dinner, her uncle watches golf.
He smiles at the men on screen like old

friends. Never mind he is not good at golf—
he hopes to die on the green. He says, “It’s
heaven on earth for me.” He says, “God,
wouldn’t that be the way to go?”

Poets Respond
October 18, 2015


Emmalee Hagarman: “A friend recently told me that ‘tall people die sooner.’ I heard a strange defensiveness in what he said—a victimization of men. This was the same week I read a news story regarding Texas students who pledged to carry sex toys around campus. University of Texas students are now allowed to carry guns to class, yet openly carrying dildos violates campus policy. I was interested in the idea that sexuality—women’s sexuality, in particular—is often seen as dangerous. In this case, even more so than lethal weapons.”

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