After burning my right arm
from a skillet with scalding canola oil,
I fainted. I was four.
Perhaps the pain was extreme,
or the stench of my delicate fl esh
quickly cooking did it.
I was losing my sense of touch.
My arm is a geography of scars.
I can point out South and Central
America from my index fi nger
to the base of my thumb.
The skin becomes darker on my forearm,
like an ocean, or the spotted river Styx
where my hairs are the rooted dead.
My elbow is a rust color,
cracked dry like the Sahara.
I cut it once; the blood poured
out like sweet water, my fi ngers
went numb as my grandmother patched
me up. I was ten, and for therapy
she advised writing to renew my skin.
For years I wrote without pen or paper,
remembering stories, reciting phrases until
I was eighteen. Then I began to tear
away all I knew: ideas, images,
facts as delicate as corn silk. My arm
warmed, my fi ngers swollen and red,
but the pen now steady in my hold.