Skin

We tell my niece the scar

from her left hip to the soft frown

of her right rib cage is a shark bite,

as if tumor removal is scoff­worthy,

as if a shark’s jaw is the shape

of a forsaken jumprope.

My father had a scar straight down

his sternum with two vertical nicks

lined up like squinted eyes below

his nipples. When I was my niece’s age,

he’d make the face in his stomach whistle—

pointer fingers pulling and pressing

the edges of his belly button—for a laugh.

Scars need their own fiction. We know

the truths but play along, try forgetting

our insides were broken, can break, will

also break. Welcome, this world of sharp

teeth and puckered lips—of hospital beds,

remote controlled, resembling stubbed­out

cigarettes. Welcome is what I say to my

love, as we map out each other’s bodies,

discover and tell stories of every unnatural

gash. We heal, are healing. I say, my family

has faulty guts, and he places his ankle

on my lap, feels around until he finds—

this is from when I stepped in a shark jaw

my brother left on our floor. My hand under

his hand, he instructs me how to touch

his childhood, something that hurt once,

allows us to remember pain from a safe distance.

#poetry

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