the erotics of scar tissue

Many years ago, a woman grabbed my arm at a poetry reading. She rubbed her thin, bony fingers along my textured forearms and told me they looked like an art project.

The lines are so even and perfectly slanted, she said. Did it take you awhile to get it like that?

And I wondered if this was foreplay or irony or naiveté or ignorance. How to respond to any of those?

I yanked my body out from her grip and stared. We were in a coffee shop in a town overrun by mountains and patchouli-drenched hippies. A young dreadlocked boy was on stage. He sounded out a poem about his mother and newly dead turtle. The entire place could have been on fire; all this woman cared about were the coordinates of my scars.

*

I am driving in the only car I’ve ever owned, which is now in the possession of a mechanic’s daughter. My green Honda Civic with cigarette burns from that time and accumulated hours of sex in the back seat and a tape deck and discarded post-its of directions from all those other times. Gas tank reads: fill me so I head to the cheapest gas station on route 9. New Jersey still does not trust their drivers with gasoline, so I roll down the window and ask for $10 worth. I hand over my currency and the man with moustache or stubble or grease on his face (who can remember) asks me where all those marks came from. It is summertime where nude limbs are necessary and all I can say is: Sex.

Years trying to make others more comfortable pushed the trauma out further and all I am left with are disjointed reasons and shame. And they’ve spread through the years past arms to shoulders to belly to hips.

*

They are the first thing I notice when they are noticeable. All the bodies pressed against me have given me their scar stories because their version is far better than the assumed ones. And with each narrative, ownership is engraved further.

It’s love when I let you touch them; it’s trust when I tell you how each one arrived; it’s long term when I can be honest with you about the last time.

It’s not so rare anymore: the occurrences of scars.  Sidewalks are uneven and loved ones hit and there’s all that running away that causes so many to fall and crack open.

Someone new at some point is going to see them all on my body. The disrobe will be in slow-motion not for erotics, but from fear. But when I meet someone who calls my body a map or cracked open sky or simply: earth because it is alive and giving and collaged with shapes and sounds, all those scars will blink open. There will be no need to hide because without them, I wouldn’t be here. . . . . . . .

Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.Scars are a language learned only by breathing.

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