By LAUREN Scharhag
Most of his clients are at least fifty.
If they aren’t ready when they arrive,
he turns them away. They must know
what it is they want; they must be prepared
to shed T-shirts or blouses, display excised layers
of flesh and tissue. Some have chosen implants,
cosmetic reconstruction, which still leaves scars.
Others have not, surgical sites ranging from flat
to sunken. They are puckered, discolored, uneven.
Some still have their nipples. The ones that don’t
never thought they’d miss them,
those nervy little bundles of skin
they’ve been taught to be ashamed of,
that have been gummed and tugged at
with childish insistence. Whole areas
deadened now, yet sensitive.
How long has it been since they’ve allowed anyone
besides the healthcare workers
to touch them?
His hands are neither romantic
Fingers smooth scars into pathways for needles,
loosening their hearts so their mouths can speak,
a recitation of ordeals as they lie back,
roll over, lift silicone-heavy replacements
to let him work underneath. They hold
their arms above their heads so he can wrap
designs around their rib cages, branches,
flowering vines, leaves. Points of ink
confer meaning, a mark of their resilience,
an expression of their still-present beauty.
Their pain is the fresh soil from which
magnificent things may bloom.