The Convert Wants Wounds, Not Scars
The wound on her lip goes white
before returning red.
The virus erupts the lines between chin and
lip, between lip and philtrum.
A sore across two continents of skin, a
bridge of lava.
She will feel healed when the flesh
color returns. The variation
is the aberration. Blood courses to
deliver a clot. Vessels
bouquet under the scalp or in the
womb, in places where we
heal fastest. Cells scramble
a lean-to scab, a mortar of new skin.
The body wants to draw its
But Jesus hangs before the
wounded, eternally weeping
from his gashes.
How to open hers without nails or
thorns? How to measure
heartbeats without seeing blood
heave out its rhythms?
A gush slows under pressure
even as the pulse
goes on. Our lesions take air, our
infections seek sunlight. How to
resist our unwilled mechanisms to
We push through the same tear in the
world and leave it sore.
When we come, we come open.
Pick a wound slow to bleed and
slower to seal. We cream
the scar to fade our atlas of living—what
itched its way to a silver road,
what shadow constellation of pox. The
convert counts Jesus’ wounds.
If you count both hands and both feet, all
lashes and piercings
and the forsaken cry, the number is
higher and lower than anyone’s.
Copyright © 2019 by Melody S. Gee. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 5, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
“This is part of The Convert, a series of poems I’m working on for my third collection. They explore my becoming Catholic after our youngest daughter was born, and the spiritual and liturgical experiences of my childhood, despite my Chinese immigrant parents not being religious at all. Finding my faith life is still new and strange, so I tell these stories of doubt, consolation, and cultural navigation in the third person, with a character who tries to understand wounds, healing, and resurrection while being invaded by a cold sore on her lip.”
—Melody S. Gee