This morning, a list of wounds to commit
to memory: contusion, abrasion, compound fracture.
There’s no irony in the lecturer’s voice, in her floral dress.

She says Let’s cut to the chase and shows a wrist
flayed open to bone. She doesn’t spare the shiny ligament
ribbons under the skin, the marble eyes of a lynched

woman, bed sheet noose printed with roses. No slides
about closing split scalps, for helping skin pull itself
whole. No cure for tear gas, for tasers, for another black boy

gunned down by cops. That’s her point: medicine
can’t always undo the violence. The knowledge we want
is how and who. The relationship of shooter and victim’s

entrance wound. At close range, you could see a face
and leave a halo of soot, of scarring and shame. At distance,
the body can be any black figure, the gun can fire a pinhole

nearly small enough to ignore. We need to examine more
because a cue stick can leave a cut on the face and blood
pooling on the brain. Reason the act to the actor,

to his synapses firing. Injury pattern, a broken
puzzle. What piece goes first? What goes last
is always clear, the end is a mother without her son.

Trauma is a physics equation: damage is mass pushed
by speed and momentum. It’s why a sledgehammer
can splinter a shinbone, why a round of bullets

blows clean through a city. But when the who and how
are clear, the why is still a moth you want to crush in your fist.
If the narrative is of a murder is mute, is molten,

you can ask an infinity of questions. Even the lecturer
evades us: picture after picture of exposed
organs, a wrench next to a canyon in a skull, no story,

no resolution. She understands the question is the answer,
the question is the weapon. It’s a knife you hold
blade-first to defend yourself. Don’t let it go—

if it’s too late to save a life, if the question
is a blood-letting, inside bursting out, then bleed.
Let them see how red we are.


ERIC TRAN is a medical student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and received his MFA from UNC Wilmington. His work appears in The Indiana Review, The Crab Orchard Review, The Collagist, and elsewhere. For more, visit

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