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A Rafter asked me to muse on the topic of shame and self-forgiveness. This poem is what emerged. Thank you, anonymous friend, for the prompt!


Phyllis Cole-Dai

Look at me:

I’m what remains of the terrible cut—
that regrettable thing you wish
you hadn’t done
(or had)

I’m the visible sign
of the jagged wound
and the evidence
of its healing

Without me
you couldn’t survive

Once upon your skin
I’m here forever
but I never stay
what I was

I’m not made
from the same flesh
as the rest of you

The deeply damaged
can’t grow back

Mending requires
something new
not seen
reliving what’s past:
The red
The swollen
The hard
The numb

Accept what’s come:
The beauty of repair
If I’m not there yet
give me time

Cleanse the layers
of shame and guilt
and I will grow
smoother, softer, lighter
The puckering will settle
Good blood will flow
Good feeling will arrive

When tempted to hide me
leave me open to the air
Were I not meant to be seen
I would disappear
without a trace

You have been marked

Face me as I am
and you will learn to see right
through me


“Emotional Scar,” oil painting by Bill Stone
Phyllis Cole-Dai

Phyllis Cole-Dai has authored or edited eleven books in multiple genres, including historical fiction, spiritual nonfiction and poetry. She lives in Brookings, South Dakota, USA.

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