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,


proud owners

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