Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wrinkles, White Hair and Scars

Wrinkles and white hair are beautiful on women.
These artifacts show that she has lived a full life.
I fell in love with my second husband by following
the lines around his faces and the scars on his
soul. By that time, I had lived enough life to
have my own defining scars. Notably, a divorce
decree and the stretch marks on my rear end, left
in the wake of my first pregnancy--a
daughter that may one day clip my toe
nails when I can no longer reach that far.

My infant son's genetic doctor was fascinated
that I was the survivor of a diaphragm hernia,
the surgery leaving a wide scar across my belly.
No C-Sections, one episiotomy in three births,
just some tearing requiring minimal stitches.
And still, this one solitary scar across my belly
from my own infancy; making me a marvelous
specimen for the genetic doctor. She said that
she didn't often get to meet adult survivors like me.
My mom told me that my then surgeon
proclaimed me a miracle. I was meant to be.
I am supposed to be here.

When I was 18 years old, I stood at the gates
of Dachau Concentration Camp, marked with the
words "Nie Wieder." Never Again.
We must remember where we came from.
I was amazed that grass and flowers
could grace this place, covering so many
scars and bones and ashes. But the crematorium
remains, occasionally bunches of flowers
marking the cold bricks like graves along
the highway where a reckless youth has
turned his car, still thinking he was invincible;
still thinking he had worlds of time.

At 17, my daughter stands at the Peace Garden
in Nagasaki; ground zero of the A-bomb.
When I learned she was going to Nagasaki for a year,
my first reaction was to wonder whether there was still
radiation in the water, in the air. My daughter
returns home soon, marked by this experience, still
carrying a stress-related illness and the love for a new best
friend named Hikaru, which sounds so magical to me.
She doesn't yet know what scars will mar her young body;
the remains of this harrowing year. And she doesn't yet
know that, as she ages, these scars will eventually turn
into pure beauty and understanding and, perhaps,
if she's lucky, sweet grace.

Once a year, I walk the Ithaca graveyard;
I read Thornton Wilder's Our Town;
I hear the man in the distance whistling
refrains of "and grace will carry us home."
And now, I resist the urge to pluck out the
white hair pushing through my still-brown mane.

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