Translation of Scars by Jill Talbot

You wake up surrounded by tinfoil and cut up pens like candycanes. So you make scribbles on post-it notes, like how you remember praying but never what you prayed for but just prayed the way they tell you to when you are so broken they know you’re beyond hope so they tell you to pray and pray because they ain’t got any better ideas and nor do you, like a stray bumper car that just keeps banging everything it finds—ketchup on your sleeve where your heart’s trying to escape, diaries are for the enemy, wrapped in silk flying over cities like Command & Conquer Red Alert in lace, swearing off politics like fishnet stockings. It’s 4PM on a day that could be any day—a night when he said you were from the Downtown Eastside and you said you were not and he said, the things you Downtown Eastside girls do to yourselves, and he left you broken like that because your scars were too ugly to pay for, and you wanted to explain how expensive some scars can be but you did not—he said he would never leave you because your scars were beautiful and somehow that was even worse—and you have filled so many notebooks with scars nobody wants or they want too much, they want you to keep getting more like that lady who’s addicted to breast implants and men keep paying her to get more, not because she’s pretty that way but because they know if they pay, she’ll do it, so they pay and pay and her kids die of shame but she doesn’t care, she just keeps getting more—but are you any better because you watched this on 20/20 and have no kids to never forgive you? The scars never let you forget how many times you’ve tried to translate—you found a new beginning but the destination never changes—dust falls from the ceiling like gold sequins but you know it’s cyanide, the ghosts play the piano at 3AM making everyone sick with regret, with laughter and blood—the best medicine’s often the worst. When the nurse gives you a band-aid for a prick from a blood test, you ask what the point is—scars bright as petticoats, scars bright as surrender, as Navy salutes, as breadcrumbs and ladybugs marching in wars. The stars some days get lost in translation from telescope to eye; skin to paper. Your scars are beautiful, he said, your soul is leaking and your suitcase’s empty, your profanity is the scotch-tape barely keeping your paperdoll together. He said I love you—it was a joke. It’s early yet but the woods don’t care—the car crashes happen at any hour. The train has just missed its mark, happiness has just missed its mark, but that was never your destination, was it?

Jill Talbot’s writing has appeared in Geist, Rattle, Poetry Is Dead, The Puritan, Matrix, subTerrain, The Tishman Review, The Cardiff Review, PRISM, Southword, and others . Jill won the PRISM Grouse Grind Lit Prize. She was shortlisted for the Matrix Lit POP Award for fiction and the Malahat Far Horizons Award for poetry. Jill lives on Gabriola Island, BC.