Sunday, March 27, 2011


Backs of the hands. Long line along right wrist,
where the sharp edge of a door caught, tearing.
Line of unknown origin making a T above the first line,
a ragged T, like a knife wound. Pool of an L
on the middle digit. Older scar, from hitting a locker door
in high school. Naked at that moment, exuberant,
talking to other boys, flinging hands about to make a point,
point of the metal locker catching and scraping.
Point of a blood transfusion needle entry, pointless mounding
of wound and dimple of scab becoming scar. Already bleeding
all of that away into wind and water. Itch of tracks on inner
elbows. Itch at night, before rest. Other scars to come.
Breast and belly, long lines and broken wounds.
Something of a knee problem. Crackle and pop of cartilage
grinding into bone, chips embedded in the connectors.
So it goes. Accumulation of memories gonging in marked skin.
Back of the hand a map of places where scars were acquired.
More scars on the hand than anywhere else. Still more to come.
There will be blood, and sinew, and fatty tissue, to be torn through.
There will be road lines across the lower belly.
A photo sent of a friend, naked in a field, walking stick in hand,
intense eyes eyeing the camera, aging, fit, hiking, a little fur
on the body, a little flushed with walking, a little dewed with sweat.
It's a beautiful portrait, face and eyes lively, lived-in, sensual, exuberant.
And the long scar across his torso, from clavicle to base of sternum.
A forgotten operation, mostly ignored in an outdoors life.
How many teenage boys have open-heart surgery and live another
30 years in perfect health, that near brush, long line of old incision
the only memory left of trauma? A repeat event would be more mortal.
We all survive things we can't embrace, can't imagine.
All you can do is persevere, not knowing when or how.
The naked scar on the naked hiker inspires: you can live on,
live through this, make it into an old scarred memory
that gives an excuse to tell a story that makes friends squirm.
What pleasure in telling such stories: the one that almost got me,
but did not. Endure. Keep going forward. Persevere, even if it's pointless.
Forward momentum is a motivation often ignored, simple willful inertia.
The stubbornness of survival. Its rich application for a promotion,
rising on that thin white rope, kundalini climbing, up the tree towards god.
Sometimes we cannot imagine the scar on the other side: how to get there
is a void, uncertain and persistent, a hole in ahead-memory, a blank
white sheet of rose-paper. Pull sinew out of its nut-hatch, its fibrous
anomaly. Recognition that the scar on the other side of survival
is a meadow we can't imagine surveying. Not yet.
The condition of a belly scar is a mark you've made it past.
The gates are guarded by converted demons who've changed their ways.
God of thunder, god of light. Some scars fade out, given enough time.
Stitches turn to the thinnest of lines, blooms in the crisis of flesh.
Can't always see through to the other size. Never used to be needle-shy.
A time in a hospital, they'll send you home when you can walk again.
Healer healed. Park that portable IV by the pissoir. Might as well
drain it directly. It's the morphine makes you into a worse poet.
Looped on limericks and asinine alliterations. Standing before
the mirror, naked, looking over every inch of skin, mapping a catalogue
of near-misses, almost-dieds, close encounters, slow seepages.
Slow breath, a little shuddery, as you realize just how close you came,
that time or another. Something dark behind the eyes, rarely seen,
rarely let out of its cage. Last battened weather-beaten door of privacy.
The worst scars are never visible to anyone on the other side.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I have a book of short stories Scars Make Your Body More Interesting & Other Stories by Sherril Jaffe which I bought in San Francisco, the same day I bought the book of Patti Smith poems. It’s a great title. The title story is actually a piece of flash:

They lay by the side of the pool. “How did you get that scar?” Ann asked Emily. Emily explained with a titter of laughter. Then she said, “I have lots of scars. Scars make your body more interesting.” Suddenly, Ann found Emily’s body terribly interesting.

I have two scars. One hidden by an eyebrow when a boy threw a rock at me and the other on my left wrist, self inflicted but not what you think: I did it in my sleep, must have dug my nail into my wrist and now I have a small scar about an inch long. All the rest are on the inside.

I always liked what Leonard Cohen wrote about scars: “Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.”

5:09 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Interesting short story.

The Cohen quote certainly fits the bill.

10:17 AM  

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