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Body Language

A Poem.

  • Poem
  • Jan 06 2023
  • Kenny Fries
    is the author of In the Province of the Gods, The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin’s Theory, and Body, Remember: A Memoir. His books of poems include In the Gardens of Japan, Desert Walking, and Anesthesia. He is a 2022 Ford Foundation/Mellon Foundation Disability Futures Fellow, and curator of “Queering the Crip, Cripping the Queer,” the first international exhibit on queer/disability history, activism, and culture for the Schwules Museum Berlin.

What is a scar if not the memory of a once open wound?
You press your finger between my toes, slide

the soap up the side of my leg, until you reach
the scar with the two holes, where the pins were

inserted twenty years ago. Leaning back, I
remember how I pulled the pin from the leg, how

in a waist-high cast, I dragged myself
from my room to show my parents what I had done.

Your hand on my scar brings me back to the tub
and I want to ask you: What do you feel

when you touch me there? I want you to ask me:
What are you feeling now? But we do not speak.

You drop the soap in the water and I continue
washing, alone. Do you know my father would

bathe my feet, as you do, as if it was the most
natural thing. But up to now, I have allowed

only two pair of hands to touch me there,
to be the salve for what still feels like an open wound.

The skin has healed but the scars grow deeper—
When you touch them what do they tell you about my life?


Body Language originally appeared in Anesthesia: Poems (The Advocado Press, 1996) and is republished by permission of the author.


    Kristina Schmidt, Hochdrücken, 2018, detail.
    Courtesy the artist.



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