To hear Paul Guest reading this poem, click here. Summer, here, is in furtive declension: to leave us wholly and in a night subject to the looming cruelty of stars
would undo the heart of everyone
and all that we pretend
would fall away, as well, dull slough
to deny. Over there, in the vines,
are buttercup blooms. When I see them,
the underside of my chin burns—
a little white jag of scar there,
sliced open when I fell headlong
into a pool years ago,
a boy bathed for the first time in blood.
And holding ice in a dishrag
to my wound, we drove into town,
talking nothing of stitches I needed,
but where to find what reward
I wanted: the Stretch Armstrong doll,
which had to be refrigerated at night,
else it tore, like skin. A scar
was heavy duct tape, silver
on its belly, which bled a kind of gel.
And when it was junk
I easily forgot it, and let it be thrown out.
My scar I never noticed.
A girl whose name my mind hasn’t kept
once held those flowers
beneath my chin when summer was
a kind of wound, opening,
and smiled to see how the skin turned
butter, except for that trace
of boy, white, falling, then hurt—
what happened here,
she asked, and I had to think to answer,
to turn away, slowly, to deny
the ache of the present for that of the past.