Bristle Burn


Delight when he would rasp my face with his,
Then run the razor case vibrating against
My downy cheek. And my dismay seeing
The pink welt underneath my daughter’s jaw
And how she smiled and said, when I asked her,
That I had left it there when I had kissed her.

Acceptable wounds, love bites, bristle burns.

But also that teenager’s scarified skin, worse than sunburn,
Stroked to a fiery rash by her boyfriend
Who had to say he loved her as he did it.
She clung to him. It hurt to think she loved him

And would endure what a saint might vowing
To know her god even as he burned her knowing.

Mark Jarman’s books include To the Green Man (2004), Unholy Sonnets (2000), Questions for Ecclesiastes (1997), The Black Riviera (1990), Far and Away (1985), The Rote Walker (1981), North Sea (1978), and Iris (1992). He is a professor of English at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

First published in Measure, Volume 1 (2006)