“Keloid” by Shei Sanchez

These days, I forget it’s there. A quarter-sized scar living 
   behind my left shoulder, raised slightly, just to remind me

      on lightless days, strength’s got my back. I remember 

an impetuous 19-year-old thirsting 
   for an external emblem of grit, a species of moxie 
her gut goaded her to chisel onto her body. Now 
   I look at this naive version of me, shaped into a faded 
black tattoo for inner power. I want to hold her hand, 

      whisper into her heart -- You had it all along. The day 

I planned to get it, Ma tried reverse psychology. I came home, 
   the sweat of Canal Street on my skin, Manhattan's traffic 
in my ears, my brown blouse carrying a dark stain, the blood 
   dried like petty sacrifice. A small price 
for a pithy message in Chinese. Not long after, my brother ventured 
   for his own version in Alibata, our native language before   
the Spanish came. Chained around his arm rang permanent 
      the words that would tell our story -- Lakas loob. Neither 

one of us knew the brands we chose to map on ourselves would carve 
   canyons deep enough to contain bodies built to fight 
the biggest storm of our lives. Neither could see the aberrant 
   ripples the drops of our blood would make on the river he and I 
were born in -- both with kidneys that would have drowned. 

His tattoo was raised, too. An inked ridge
   atop a hill high enough to fear a fall. 

            We got up again. Today, a new scar is etched 

on each of our bellies, housing a living kidney 
   beneath strata of flesh, raising our skin, just so.  

Shei Sanchez is a writer, photographer, and teacher from Jersey City, New Jersey. Her writing can be found in Gyroscope Review, Sheila-Na-Gig online, Entropy Magazine, Sepia Journal, Pudding Magazine, and other fine places. She has work forthcoming in Main Street Rag and two anthologies, the Women of Appalachia Project’s Women Speak and Woodhall Press’s Nonwhite and Woman. She lives on a farm with her partner in southeast Ohio. Read more on sheisheiwrites.wordpress.com.