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During recess, we would fight all the time.
We understood the playground was alive
and we were hurting it. I clawed at you,
you punched at her, she kicked at me. We bled

in the field, on the blacktop, and woodchips.
During class, I watched the other recess.
The kids played peacefully, ignoring
one another. Everyone by themself.

I tried to will fights to break out. The peace
was boring. Class was boring. She and you
just slept in the back of the room, and I
sometimes managed to fall asleep too.

At the end of the school day, we went home.
Alone in our rooms, scattered across town,
we invented rules to more fighting games.
Sometimes we snuck out to fight in moonlight.

The three of us fighting and screaming and laughing
as the occasional car drove by, lights
blinding and then disappearing again.
And if a driver stopped to yell at us,

we’d chase them down, cawing, until they left.
And at the end of the night, our bloodied
knuckles gleaming, voices hoarse from screaming,
we’d put our heads together and wrap arms

around each other’s backs, and jump and spin
chanting all our names three times. You sometimes
got soft and told us you loved us. Then she
or I would punch you down. Of course we did.

But you can’t say that. It kills it. Like now.
Now you’re flat on the blacktop with your head
leaking blood out. Wake up, it was only
a game, and we should play again. Wake up!

She kicks your head but you don’t move at all.
I pinch your nose shut and cover your mouth
so you can’t breathe, but why don’t you react?
There’s an earthquake. The playground opens up

and you and I fall into a shallow crack.
She stands a few feet above us, looking down,
bracing to keep her balance as the world
churns. It makes me nauseous. It doesn’t stop.



Rainie Oet is a nonbinary trans woman and the author of three poetry books, most recently Glorious Veils of Diane (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2021), and two forthcoming picture books from Astra Young Readers. They currently live with their partner, writer Ariel Chu, in Los Angeles. Learn more at rainieoet.com.
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