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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Secret of Scars


There was a fever in your eyes
like a pirate appraising
shipwrecked gold as
you'd traced the scars on my arm,

(I'd stretched it out like a child
showing his father's war medal)

you'd caressed the fault lines where
my surface weakens,
and said how you thought
they were beautiful;


they're half your charm, like a map
to your past
, you'd said,
proof that even the worst
wounds heal in time if you let it

(but how could you know
that time does not heal the scar;
it merely heals around it)

you'd smiled, almost gladly,
almost relieved to see it,
to find some imperfection in me,
and I gave up more willingly:


(I'd stretched myself out like a lover
revealing a secret itch
just to make you happy)

I have other scars, too, I'd said,
it's just you can't see them,
you'd looked me over,
gold-rush at fever pitch;

(but how could you be told? - some
scars are like currents of river
running too deep beneath its stem
to see them when they sleep)


and what do you do with them?
you'd asked; still panning for gold
with your pirate eyes,

I don't keep those scars if I can;
I turn them into stars
to guide the wise
, I'd replied.


And where do
your stars lead us?

you'd asked; so I'd said:
(too truthfully)

a scar is the word made flesh,
as though we were
the bark of a tree
on which life has slice-cut
out its initials


Like a piece of unwanted advice,
there was a moment
of silence speaking then.
You'd rubbed my arm gingerly:

(as though you knew how fragile
wisdom could be: reflecting starlight
is merely a stone's throw away
from dispersing into tiny
bits of shine, easily shattering bright)

but not realising scars sleep
peacefully with the messy grit, too,
that comes out when poked about
in their river bed:


yet, you'd teased deeper still:
a shipwreck looter with no morals,
searching, sifting for jewels
and heirlooms lost by others,

so I'd tried again: every mark torn
and scratched leads not to one
who has failed;
but survived instead

and you had nodded, then, satisfied -
finding the nuggets you'd desired -
had smiled, had wanted
to go further in; to become
part of me and this skin.


I'd quickly put my arm away;
hoping to have put you off
had seemingly
done the opposite thing:

I could tell you thought
my actions were of one
afraid of scarring,
but you were wrong;

for one who has carried
scars inside and out
for so long acts not from fear
but mercy:

(what irony; I was showing you
a star to follow along,
but you refused to see it
and move safely on)

so what's all
this about?

I'd asked you suddenly.


This, so you had told me,
wasn't a quick skinny-dip swim,
it's like deep sea
, you'd said,
as though assuring yourself
you'd done the right thing
to jump right in;

(or was it in warning? -
like brandishing a knife
in defence of the self
or a flailing of arms
when out of your depth)

and I tried to tease you
then: Or do you mean it's like
was my effort
to lighten the mood;


(or was it really to protect you
from yourself: to stop you from diving
too deep to rob rough-hewed
from an underwater grave? -
in search of the stars and gold
you'd craved)

for the secret of scars
is that they are like words,
cold and lifeless, they don't belong
until we interpret their value,

like lies they
can make us weak, or
like truth make us strong
with the lives they save:


and like the words we use,
we are destined to become
each other's scars, too:

so it's best to keep
a blunt blade between us
I'd spoken finally with a sigh,

(showing the arm once more,
for ultimately that's where
you'd lie)

I don't have space
for another wound
for you
, I'd said,

and though you looked
as though I'd watched
while the pirate in you drowned;
you knew it was true:

because no one can cut
as deep as those
we've loved so much
can do.

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