I’m a child staring at clear ocean waters,
With adults splashing feet away.
I must be an outsider, terrified of treading too deep.
Because there was a shark once. It pulled a girl under.
The beach was taped off for a week after
And the news feeds recounted the girl’s story.
And everyone waited for her to be found,
To dissect the body of that lonely shark.
They looked at what it’d consumed; they picked apart its motives.
They plastered its guts on the television and screamed
“Shark shark shark” for months after.
I’m picturing the blood in the water.
I can still hear echoes of snapping teeth.
I shouldn’t be this scared.
Paranoia has left my legs paralyzed.
I’m imagining the possibilities.
That killer could have sparked something.
Uncle Sam says “it’s a tragedy,”
Then passes out more rifles.
Uncle Sam says “protect yourself,”
Then turns away for bribery.
I’m being fed daily lies while
My arteries whisper “Pulse.”
Our flag’s got blood spotting the corners.
They don’t want us alive.
They won’t stop if we’re alive.
I hear a chorus of forty-nine victims
Haunting me with every heartbeat.
So maybe I shouldn’t be this scared, but—
I have too many fucking nightmares
About teeth and battered flesh.
I see myself in those bodies
And wonder if I could be safe.
Yet I have to close my eyes
When the terror overtakes my senses.
My heart’s still beating, but I suppose
I’m in mourning for those that went silent.
I’ve got to remind myself that
Nothing is without sacrifice.
We keep fighting for those who follow us.
They will not fear tomorrow like I do.
Cheyan was born and raised in Oregon, and although her family moved to Florida when she was thirteen, she has always considered Oregon her home. After returning for college, she is glad to be back home and anticipates that she will be here to stay.