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

nor clinical

but necessary.

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.

Issue 2: BLOOM, available to buy online, click image

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