Asylum

With each drag the man’s sleeve shifts

to show dark skin, pitted with deep white scars;

bowls of cooled craters hot with old pain.

I think of Helen.

 

She had skin like silk,

tanned by the summer of ’76

with fine, fair hairs that melted first,

curling crisp in the glowing heat .

 

I ask the interpreter about the scars.

“Self inflicted”. She said.

“It’s not uncommon, the pain blinds,

briefly, the mind’s eye.”

 

It started with a pound note,

a match and a crumpled cigarette .

I didn’t smoke so her fag felt awkward

between my finger and thumb.

 

It was her idea.

The trick was to wrap the note around her slender wrist,

drag on the fag

and burn a hole before she fainted.

 

‘He says they made him watch her die.

Held her high on a bayonet.

Passing her one to the other

Laughing, laughing, laughing, laughing.”

 

I sit across the table

from a brown skinned scarred man,

who reminds me of the girl

I’ve not tortured for thirty years.


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