When I cut my arm on a friendly tongue I am surprised it bleeds. I lick the open slit and don’t know to call a wound a wound.
Some hunters ignore you as their steel sinks into your skin. Others keep your gaze as their lashes darken new stripes. Lash with a smile, lash with a wink, lash with a scowl.
A stranger opens my back with a slice. But where are the
bones? they ask, blood and bones in exchange for stones.
They thought there’d be more. They always want more.
Snarling tigers are put down.
Darling children slash at my face and make cuts I cannot reach. Look what you’ve done, I lament into their baby-blues, you’ve stained your blonde with red.
I radiate out of every line, branded as far as the eye can see. The soft of my coat seeps out and settles into hard, matted clots.
With my teeth I craft a barbed-wire cage to keep poachers
out and away, out and away.
Out! – I stripe my body against
the barricades – out! – I band my palms and paint my belly –
out! – I stripe until I no longer know the sight of my own skin.
Safe in the hiding, I stand in plain sight – camouflage myself
against the trees and think how every vein is a history that won’t
stop its retelling.
This poem was originally published in Barzakh Magazine on July 11, 2020.