* Page 37: This accident was really not an accident. I swung the coffee can with intent at Susan’s forehead, creating the crescent scar in her eyebrow that was the result of childish play, the sweet camaraderie of siblings. The accident story was for our father, who insisted we did not have “the goddamned luxury” of emergency room visits. (See also page 126.) I hid in the closet, and Susan’s wound was not tended by a patient doctor, but closed with duct tape. There was no ice cream, just a bloody pillowcase and silence.
*Page 126: When a van went through a red light and smashed into the family car, Susan was not fascinated by the quantity of (her) own blood and the way (her) body flopped like a rag doll behind the wheel. Our father did not rush to her side afraid for his darling girl. She was, in fact, terrified. His response to the top of her head, shaved so the doctor could stitch it, was “I’ve seen worse. You’ll live. And your hair looks ridiculous.” Dad and I called her “Patchy” for weeks.
*Page 154: Our father’s scars did not make Susan territorial and protective, proud of him as he displayed his tangible symbols of struggle. In truth, they disgusted her – the huge half circle around his chest from the removal of a tubercular lung, the line straight up his right calf from repair of his snapped Achilles tendon. As she got older, she referred to him as a freak, not a sturdy frame seeming all the more powerful for its fissures.
*Page 189: Most of Susan’s scars are more accidental than dramatic. Her elbow? Not mountain biking, but tripping over her own clumsy feet. The tip of her right ring finger? Not a knife left in the dishwater, but inept use of a mandolin. But her upper arms are no accidents, no embarrassing acne scars. I held the picture as she poked small holes with the edge of a razor to create an outline of our mother’s barely-remembered face.
*Page 203: Susan did not cry for days when our father died. She didn’t cry at all. The line at his service was not around the block, full of the people (our) father’s life had touched. Susan gave a eulogy that was equal part BS and beauty, just like this book. Distant relatives paid insincere respects, shuffled dutifully through our receiving line of two, then left us alone, me looking from the door to the casket needing to escape, Susan rubbing the constellations on her upper arms, pretending that the air conditioning was too cold.
Donna Vorreyer is a Chicago-area writer who spends her days teaching middle school, trying to convince teenagers that words matter. Her work has appeared in many journals including Rhino, Linebreak, Cider Press Review, Stirring, Sweet, wicked alice, and Weave. Her fourth chapbook, We Build Houses of Our Bodies, is forthcoming this year from Dancing Girl Press; in addition, her first full-length poetry collection, A House of Many Windows, was recently released by Sundress Publications. She also serves as a poetry editor for Mixed Fruit magazine. Visit her online at www.donnavorreyer.com
Lead image: “Scar Face, Cuba” (via Flickr user Neil Moralee)