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Vaccination

The scar on my arm is thin like the skin

of a fruit close to splitting.

It marks my birth as before ’72,

before the end of smallpox but after polio,

after the wheelchairs and the iron lungs,

the radios crackling with war.

If you were born then, you remember

taking your Halloween candy

to the fire station to have it checked

for razor blades. You were a gypsy

because that was still okay.

Maybe there was one black girl

in your class like Martha Washington

who brought upside-down clown cones

for her birthday and then moved away.

You watched the Challenger blow up

on the news again and again.

I was there in my boots and eyeliner,

waiting by the wall until a boy

asked me to dance. His mouth was a shock

of salt. I flicked my name off like ash

from my cigarette. I loved how the tip

flamed, like the squares of coal

in our furnace. Maybe you remember

my father. He was thin and transparent

like the place where the needle went through.

Maybe I can peel it off, the dead skin

from a burn, the kind we got back then,

before sunscreen, when we just took off

our clothes and got in.

from Dresses from the Old Country (2018)Find other Laura Read books in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Published in Laura Read Poems

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