For September, we bring you this new poem by Rob Arnold. The poem is about intimacy between two people, about baring and sharing the scars of the past with each other, about managing each others pain and vulnerability, and about recognizing the imperfection that makes up the individuals creating a partnership.
-- Karissa Chen, Senior Literature Editor
There are nights
we take off our clothes
to read the stories written over us,
nights we unmask the pain,
the moment of clarity
when our skin parted
and the violence rushed in,
seams where the boundary
between one life and the next grow thin,
where mortality simmers through,
intimacies that lovers might reveal
when they first undressed
as we did years ago,
then did again, haltingly,
after surgery had drawn its mark.
Though I understand I’m not
supposed to look, not supposed
to notice how the scar
bisects you nape to pelvis
like a terrible strikethrough,
just as you pretend not to see
my own disfigurements,
the flesh lumped and puckered
where, as a child, I was
bruised and bitten, beaten and bled.
There are nights like this
when the junctions dilate,
when the world would force
us open and scrape us clean inside,
nights our bodies grow
beyond themselves, their small
sovereignties, when our hands
would meet along the fault lines
of our scarring like two failures
and couple there, shame to shame,
with no language to guide them.
Or nights of impossible closeness,
when our fears would coalesce
around our scars as around this crucifix
of spine and shoulder blade
I touch some nights before we sleep,
when even the darkness
would shed its defenses, in black rivulets
sluicing down the window panes.
You were sitting at the edge of the bed.
You pulled your hair aside.
The slick skin of our scars
shone in the low light, shadows creeping
up the wall as we lay there,
and prepared ourselves
for the long astonishment.