Christina Lovin









Burning the Love Letters


Regret nothing that has brought you joy—

ephemera or solid flesh:


they are those lovers and their words

that aroused you with their weight.


Lament instead the mad rash loss

of proof that you have been desired.







I met a man with two dozen tattoos

each more beautiful than the last:

roses with leaves as intricate as breath,

birds whose feathers seemed so real

I reached to touch the skin

from which they rose,

stars that spanned his shoulders width—

a constellation of ink

just below the surface—

wings sprouting between the shoulder blades,

another pair lifting the ankles to flight,

a saucer-sized spider—

her web woven in lines and spaces

from ankle to knee, encircling the calf

in black and grey—a brilliant red

thorax, that raised bulls eye of pain

that had taken months to heal.


When he lost a leg (not so much misplaced

as sawn off and discarded)

and then his life,

the cremation technicians stared in wonder

at the ink of fifty years spread beneath the skin—

Jesus, Mother, USMC,

initials in a heart—obliterated, faint,

but never totally gone—

a baby’s name on a dim blue banner,

one black tear below his right eye—

then urged through the retort’s iron doors

a life’s cartography—that seething map

of pride and grief.





When they were newly cut by desire,

he sat naked on the edge of the bed,

showing her every scar, turning his body

in the light of the bedside lamp—a glow

in the dark of the room that lit his face

looking down at hers upturned in awe.

The fingers-width between his brows

furrowed by a blow that had left its mark

years ago. His sweet mouth puckered

by a brutal split into perpetual kisses.

The skin of the belly, lightly furred, carved

by a surgeon, leaving a gentle smile below

the navel. That near-limp explained

by the white slash above the heel

where crashing glass had severed

the stretched cord holding his gait steady.


She wondered at the pain he had endured,

and the nature of injury and healing,

how each body bears the insignia of living—

the stories told in flesh: the fractal striations

on herself where twice the child inside

had pushed against the walls of its watery

prison, that hidden rending between her legs

through which they had torn their way out.

Those other slashes and stabs that heal

but leave tokens of a surgeon’s knife—

the shirred stump of leg she had once seen

as her uncle moaned and felt for a limb

that had been cut away to save his life.

Or worse—the photo of a slave’s back,

raised ridges spreading like a mountain

range across that atlas of human flesh.


Every wound results in some degree

of remembrance, of history. Worst

damage results in worst relic. Scars

cannot form until complete healing

occurs, she knows that now. Understands

how time itself creates the score,

knitting a blanched chain of tissue

to truss the body back together, wreathing

the tender chasm over the days and hours,

a fibrous plaiting of forged flesh. The longer

it takes,  the more time, the greater the scar.

Ten years now. She still picks at that

tender place—a man with beautiful scars,

naked at her bedside—tearing at

some hidden scab as the gap draws apart

once more, crimson with proud flesh.


note: Proud flesh is overgrown granulated tissue

that prevents a wound from healing.



The Forest of Her


I see people, but they look like trees walking

~the healed blind man to Jesus, book of Mark

I crave an intimacy too private to speak of,

truly one must close one’s eyes to see.

~Marvin Bell


Perhaps, after all, we should embrace our darkness

for that Bible story may have had things wrong.

Like knowledge, a little sight can be dangerous,

for he once was blind, but even now he can’t see.


That Bible story may have had things wrong:

the poor man cannot now recognize his own wife.

He once was blind, but even now he can’t see

the length of her hair and her particular gait.


That poor man cannot now recognize his own wife

by sight. He knows her only by her scent,

the length of her hair, and her particular gait:

the faithful whisper of air moving


slightly, lifting from her to him her scent

as if a secret spoken in darkness.

The faithful whisper of air moving

reveals her in the half-light of half-sight.


As if a secret spoken in darkness,

her body grows mysterious roots.

Revealed, in the half-light of half-sight,

the leaves of hair, her branching arms—


her body grown mysterious. Roots

and limbs tangle, quaking the shadowy

leaves of hair. Her branching arms

catch him like a weary bird at day’s end.


His limbs tangle, quaking in the shadowy

places of her body. The familiar forest of her

catches him like a weary bird. At day’s end

he closes his eyes and finds his way


around her body—the familiar forest of her

like knowledge. A little sight can be dangerous,

so he closes his eyes and finds his way

for perhaps, after all, we should embrace our darkness.













Christina Lovin is the author of A Stirring in the Dark, What We Burned for Warmth, Little Fires, and a forthcoming chapbook, Flesh. A two-time Pushcart nominee and multi-award winner, Lovin’s writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. The Society for Humanistic Anthropology chose her heroic crown sonnet, “Myth Information,” recipient of the Ethnographic Poetry Award. The Southern Women Writers’ Conference awarded Lovin an Emerging Poet Award. Among her other awards, Lovin has been named winner of the Portia Steele and the Women Who Write competitions, as well as the Betty Gabehart Poetry Award (Women Writers’ Conference). She was four-time finalist for Rita Dove International Poetry Award, New Letters Poetry Awardand the 7th Juried Reading at Poetry Center of Chicago. She has received the Judson Jerome Scholarship from Antioch Writers’ Workshop, Baron Wormser Scholarship for Stone Coast Writers’ Conference, and most recently was awarded the AWP WC&C Poetry Scholarship. Lovin has served as Writer-in-Residence at Devil’s Tower National Monument, the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Central Oregon, and Connemara, the North Carolina, home of the late poet Carl Sandburg. She has been a resident fellow at Hopscotch House, Kangaroo House (Orcas Island), Prairie Center of the Arts, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center, and Footpaths House in the Azores. Her work has been generously supported on several occasions with grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Kentucky Arts Council, including the 2007 Al Smith Fellowship. She resides with four dogs in a rural central Kentucky, where she is a lecturer in the English and Theatre Department at Eastern Kentucky University.



Articles similaires