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Shine

It was not sudden
the windowless room
with only their black pupils showing
so none of them were smiling
even if they were.

It was gradual
down, down, down
nerves gone dark-
and silent, flailing
their yellow arms
set free from the tight pack
of bone and vein.

The blade made a pulling sound
as it opened me. There was
a stretching
— epidermis, dermis
subcue. A pulling — forceps, clamps,
chisels. My bones,
as they were scraped away
made sounds like stones
rubbed together under great pressure,
a spinning, grind,
bits floating in the air
so I knew then, why the masks
were so necessary, in part
to keep my calcium
out of their soft, pink lungs.

And next, my sacrum. O Holy
holy bone severed by men
who do the divine, breaking
into the bodies of children.

When they were done, after the whining saw,
the grafting, the piling on
there was the fire, string, paper tape,
and my skin, gauzy, silver,
never quite the same.

On horses we call this flesh
proud, and this was my happy thought,
the one the surgeon asked me to find
before a nurse slipped plastic
over my face, blew in chemical air.

It was riding my old Palomino
into the woods that last time,
before they broke me, to fix me again,
marked me a brave little girl with an old soul.

My surgeon stepped close to me,
and I felt it if weren’t for the gloves
he would have stroked my forehead
with the back of his hand
the way they touch horses in films.

Was he proud
of the way he could save me?
Did he imagine me someday
riding back into those woods
with a strong, unbroken spine?
A thick, silver scar
across my back?

Did he pray he wouldn’t kill me?
I’m sure he knew
better than that. A man of
medicine, of blood and bone and flesh,
proud flesh, to be doing the work
we call on gods to do,
to pull children open
at the small of their backs
and leave them shining.

Posted 05/10/17
First published in Packingtown Review
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