It will exist in my skin,
given to me by my dad, and him by his,
and him by his
running all the way back to when the first
patriarch of prehistory
got sunburnt, new skin evolving
from pale to painful pink. I will revel in it,
relish the spots and sickness
like the lost man loves the salt water so delicious
he knows it will not drown him
but rather the opposite.
It is an inevitability, an exclusivity
to the men in my family. They have stories like prison tattoos,
crude and ugly and impossible to understand
unless you have one.
Something you wouldn’t want
to get rid of.
It will be my ticket
into a private fraternity,
a collection of men, not unhappy like animals, outsiders call survivors.
My uncle is on his fourth, a family record,
world wars fought and returned from waiting for the next fascist
so he can cross the ocean again and again
and continuously be that hero.
He sits at the head
of the corners of rooms—
even without treatment—
with the rest struggling around him on their first
or their second, if they’re lucky.
They smile so often. Pale,
all of them arctic hares blending into the snow
maybe for survival, maybe to feel the cold,
no one knows,
but they love it,
of their own sickly skin, they relive the days
when they might have been dying,
basking in adrenaline
only foreign to those of us without it.
Photo By: Laura Prado