Trigger Warning by Susan Elmslie
The sun was shining outside
or it was raining. There were windows
but none of them opened.
I was wearing clothes but I was
naked, that first day back
in the classroom
after the shooting.
The next story we were
scheduled to read was
“The Things They Carried.”
And when I stood before them and opened
my mouth I gave what was the first
trigger warning, before I knew
what such a thing was.
They story had guns and violence in it,
and I didn’t know if they’d want
to read it now. Should we read it?
Or should we strike it?
I asked again. Silence.
They were looking through me
as though I were the window and I was
looking at them like they were a door
with an unanswered phone ringing
behind it. They wouldn’t
have names anymore because I was afraid
to love them. Finally, somebody
said, “We don’t care.” Nobody
disputed this. I was silent
for a long time.
Then I got my paper cup of coffee,
raised it to my mouth,
and poured it down the front of my blouse.
Susan chose to share “Trigger Warning” with us as it is the favourite poem of her friend Masarah Van Eyck, to whom Museum of Kindness is dedicated.
Susan Elmslie’s first trade collection of poetry, I, Nadja, and Other Poems (Brick, 2006), won the A.M. Klein Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the McAuslan First Book Prize, the Pat Lowther Award, and a ReLit Award. Her poems have also appeared in several journals and anthologies—including the Best Canadian Poetry in English (2008, 2015)—and were collected in a prize-winning chapbook, When Your Body Takes to Trembling (Cranberry Tree, 1996). She lives in Montreal and teaches English literature and creative writing at Dawson College. Museum of Kindness is her second poetry collection.