Scars Don’t Tan

We present this work in honor of the 10th anniversary of the poet’s death.

M.Z. Ribalow
1948 – 2012


It takes so little for the unraveling to
commence—a careless gesture, a reassuring
phrase never quite uttered, a heedless
moment that seemed rhapsodically hopeful
but which left resonant repercussions that
altered everything. A legacy of scars:
emotional ones fade but not away,
physical ones blend but don’t tan.

The rap music you give as a birthday gift
to your nephew because it’s what he likes,
the visit you force yourself to make because
your relatives need cheering up, your friend’s
neurotic phone call that consumes the night—
the recipients are grateful, but none of it
ever washes away your secret detritus.
Expiation seems a goal, but is a way of life.

It began happening so long ago, in details too
nuanced to notice. A slight misstep sprains an
ankle that never fully heals; a dropped stitch
subtly renders imperfect the entire tapestry.
Nothing to be done now but to recover; make
The most of what remains, the best of what
May be. Though you recall the white whale,
Do not pursue him through the oceanic past.

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