Friday, April 9, 2010

Self-portrait with two ears


One of the stories my face tells
is of a winter Saturday in 1968. Takoma Park
is full of hills; this was the next one
over from mine. The snow and ice
slipped down Willow Avenue,
irresistible for sledding. There was an orange barricade,
mark of official approval, where we gathered
to slide down.
Mom climbed on the Flexible Flyer
behind me, I tucked in my gangly
six-year-old limbs,
and down we went.

What caused the sudden veer to the right? Mom had
taught me to steer. Who held the rope? What was
the make and model of the car? Daddy would
have known. Let’s say a ’56 Chevy,
bulbous and hospital green, with a hard bright bumper.
Why, the adult me asks, did they let kids
sled down a street full of parked cars?
My head slammed the metal.

A stranger’s red washrag at my head. You can be killed
by a blow to the temple
, someone said. I tasted salt.
Mom had not stopped crying. The bigger boys
scudded on by, joyful, unaware.
Daddy appeared with the car. I lay in my room
away from home, the big back seat,
fascinated. Mom. Mom. Look. I bit my tongue.
She turned, tearful, from the passenger seat,
murmured muddled comfort.

How strange and wonderful to lie on the white table,
watching white thread go into my right brow
and come out brown. I felt nothing. I learned
so much. I learned about concussions. I learned that
girls with scars on their faces
are supposed to hate them later.
I learned how my hillbilly tomboy mom
could be most deeply injured.

I got nine stitches. I never had children.
Scars are too simple.


Kristi Jacobson said...

a sign that i too was/am a tomboy my response (besides looking for the facebook button): "Cool! Stitches? Can i see where they were?"

April is a good month for poetry for you!!

Pam said...

Kristi: I'm kind of a weirdo; I was never a tomboy and never quite succeeded at being a girly girl. When my husband's family gathers, with the men in one room talking about cars and the women in another talking about kids, I'm always on the stairs with my husband and his brother, talking about Jethro Tull.

I still have the scar in my right eyebrow. It's not horribly disfiguring or anything.

Thanks for your comments. I just became a follower of your blog.