The Girl Who Carved Jesus into Her Forearm

On that first morning she didn’t wear bandages,
I watched her tuck a loose strand of hair
behind her ear, her right sleeve
slipping to her elbow—the faint loop
of the final S curved around the edge
of her sweater, but the U sharp,
almost a V, the J distorted
as if she had trouble with the blade.
The night before I had been warned
not to stare, and don’t ask any questions
my mother’s voice low and firm like on those days
we went grocery shopping and she would yank
me away from Old Mr. Cummings
who stood on the corner of Main Street
yelling that Satan was in the five-n-dime again.

But it was hard not to watch
the star pupil in our Sunday School class
who now sat straight in front of me
in Friday homeroom, her fingers
twirling a No. 2 pencil like a thin baton.
It was hard not to think about
how the raw name turned red.
So instead, I focused on all my prayers
that God hadn’t answered—some things
all seventh graders must ask for, like an A
on a prealgebra pop quiz or perfect teeth
without the taste of braces,
and some things that had to be different
like more money on paydays,
so my parents would stop fighting.
I wondered if it worked—bleeding
in order to get God’s attention.

:: Karen Weyant, Stealing Dust (2009)

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