The Light Beneath My Mother’s Scars

Roey Leonardi

I was cut from my mother’s body
in late August, the world hot
and muggy and clinging like fingernails
to new pink skin. She was cut from
my grandmother’s body in December.
I wonder if the worlds we first know
leave us the way we are,
if I am burning and she is frostbitten.

My grandmother showed me her scar
once, an anchor on her abdomen
in the powdery green light
of her upstairs bathroom. I’ve wanted to ask
if these women ever feel, as I do, like their bodies
are sinking, miles of water pressing down
on their chests and everything
their eyes hold is blurred and blue.

My mother scolds me for letting
my fingernails grow too long. I’ve raked
them along my own forearms to see the pink
lines that follow them like jet streams trail
after the airplanes I watch from my backyard,
pretending I’m far above the heavy sea.

When I was little I scratched pictures onto my thighs,
watched them rise up and fade away again.
I think before I die I’ll trace
my mother’s scar and her mother’s
scar onto my body. I want to know
how it feels to have carried
something that heavy for so long.


ROEY LEONARDI is a junior at Charleston County School of the Arts in Charleston, South Carolina, where she majors in creative writing. She has won 38 regional and 6 national awards in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and has also placed in the PTA Reflections Contest and the Carl Sandburg National Poetry Contest. Her poetry has been published in Rattle magazine both online and in print. While her favorite form of writing is poetry, she enjoys nonfiction and fiction as well. Roey is most inspired by the natural world and the strong female influences in her life, particularly her mother and three sisters.