We watched the old ones at the beach
bundled up, the men in their fedoras,
women with veils and orthopedic shoes
they'd take off, but never at the water
that moated them off from an Old World
they wore on their backs
which bowed and ached and swelled
not from the torturer's machines
but because they lasted.
My mother, too, went unprotected,
breaking bones in her swimmer's body
whose breasts became irradiated
like fruit to keep them one more
day not melons, rather lemons
we use at ceremonial meals
to signify our days in bondage.
One day, the doctor scraped
my flesh to view its sand paintings
mysterious as New Mexico's autumn
whose symbols I began to learn.
It was a language of picked orchards and
cliff carvings, red adobe cold
with shallow snow and conquistadors.
I worry. I don't live on those
plateaus, but carry them with me
like trinkets bought off Route 66
drying on a thong around my neck
tattooing me. In particular,
I worry that my skin's a mural
bleeding color, fading outline,
structure soon to topple
all my lost art.
© 1995 by Mark Newman
Mark Newman is a founder of Seattle's Live Poets Society, which has given public readings in the Pacific Northwest since early 1992. He is a teacher and West Coast writer.