Poetry Self-Harm

2 Poems by Rachel Tanner

“on the 8 month anniversary of my last suicide attempt, i tell my mother i am happy to be alive”

i am brimming with unmentioned things
that won’t stay in my mouth.

i look past myself and see more
than me. for maybe the first time,

what i want is what i have.

there is no language here. only stars.

i didn’t know love could be so warm
but now i’m more of a fire
than i ever knew i could be.


Today I’m so glad that I didn’t die last week. Just now
I met a man who believed in me & I wore a floral top
with matching floral tennis shoes & good lord,
I looked like a fresh bouquet of roses.

What good are roses if they’re dead?

When I say I actually feel alive again, I don’t mean
I’m merely living. I mean I’m alive
as in – holy shit – my heart is the size
of the empty Quiznos on the corner
that went out of business.

Oh, there are several lives I could lead,
but I just want one. I just want mine.

My god –
what a thing:
to stay alive
after trying to die.

Rachel Tanner is a queer, disabled writer from Alabama whose work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Bandit Fiction, Saw Palm, Memoir Mixtapes, and elsewhere. She tweets @rickit.