Self-defense — by Katelyn Roth

Sharpen your knuckles

with keys and ready the heel of your hand

to crack noses. Knuckles sharp

with keys and the heel of the hand readies

to crack noses. Keys sharpen knuckles;

handheel cracks noses. Knuckles to

noses. Knuckles to noses. Knuckles

to noses. Knuckles to noses. I don’t even like

boxing. I check the backseat

before locking myself in. I hesitate

rolling the trash bin to the curb.

From ages 12-17 I practiced

shimmying tied hands from under my knees

without parting them. Every day

a female friend or relative forwarded the newest

threat—baby crying roadside, flat tires in the mall

parking lot, unattended bar drinks. I hate

the coiled crouch of my body in the dark,

hate my muscles knowing what to do, hate

my expectant resignation, hate

the assault that feels inevitable.

~ Katelyn Roth

Katelyn Roth graduated with her Master’s in poetry from Pittsburg State University. She teaches composition and general literature at Pittsburg State University and Fort Scott Community College. Her work has previously appeared online at Silver Birch Press and at Heartland: Poems of Love, Resistance, and Solidarity.

Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, is winner of the Red Mountain Press Editor’s Choice Award for Shadow Light. Other books are a memoir, The Turtle’s Beating Heart: One Family’s Story of Lenape Survival (U. of Nebraska Press) and A Casino Bestiary: Poems (Spartan Press). Jackalope, fiction, was acclaimed by Pennyless (U.K.), American Book Review, and New Letters. She has won 3 Ks. Notable Book Awards and recognition from PSA, Roberts Foundation, Lichtor Award, NEH, and more. Low has an MFA (Wichita State U.) and Ph.D. (Ks.U.). She teaches for Baker University’s School of Professional and Graduate Studies.


2 thoughts on “Self-defense — by Katelyn Roth

  1. I think the juddering rhythms of this poem create an evocative sort of breathlessness that describes or enacts very effectively the foreboding and the nameless fear we women experience, some of us for all of our lives, whether because of past experiences or as a result of a world of warnings. Well done!

  2. When we first moved to Wichita I would walk our dog around the neighborhood at night. I never realized how dangerous that was until we experienced a drug bust and gun shots down the street. Now I walk warily in the day time. Your poem illustrates well fear.

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