Story by Alex Green
The soccer player who was bitten by a shark has a scar that sits under his eye like the fossil of a creature with a spine. Your friends think he gets all the girls because it makes him look tough, but you know that's not it. It's how they can see from the scar how violence failed on him, how it could only manage to glide weakly against his face like a weak splash from a shallow pool. He kicks winning goals, he gets perfect grades and to make matters worse, he's a really nice guy. He's kind and thoughtful and speaks quietly as if he's discussing the delicate childhood of someone nearby. You make everyone laugh with your Australian accent, your impressions of your professors, your ventriloquist act with a sandwich, but that's about it. You even have dates here and there, but you're no match for the soccer player because funny always loses to a scar. At night you stare in the mirror and think about giving yourself one, just to even things up. A quick swipe with a knife would last for years of girls, but you worry that you don't know how far to take the blade or if the bleeding will stop on its own. You'd probably go too deep, puncture an artery and soak the campus in blood; or you'd go too shallow for stitches and end up bandaged and embarrassed, known as a fraud forever. But the real problem is you wouldn't know how to live under a scar; how to act, how to stand, what to say when people say things, so instead you try to carve your initials in the woodframe above the window. And even when the blade goes hot in your hand and the letters break in half against the surface of the grain, you can't stop slicing away at the night.
Alex Green '92, mfa '97 is a native of California. His poems have appeared in the Mid-American Review, RHINO and Barrow Street, and his music reviews and interviews have appeared in Amplifier, Magnet and CMJ New Music Monthly. He is the author of The Stone Roses, a critical analysis of the British band's eponymous album. This poem is from a new collection titled We All Sort of Got What We Wanted, which is scheduled for publication in the fall. Green is teaching at Saint Mary'sand can be found on the Web at www.caughtinthecarousel.com.