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
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