After the Fire, by Ada Navarro Ulriksen

She took a dip in the healing waters
of Lethe, rubbed the ashes away
until her arms were pale and gray

with cold. She stepped out, and then began

the procession of lotions and
late-night pomegranate trays.
Deep breath in.

She thinks to herself:
The past doesn’t exist except
for what its ghost hand has etched
on my body.

Breathe out.

And she thinks:
Rub hard enough with the right soap and the right
scrub and the marks will go away.

She spends hours in that river,
scrubbing till her limbs feel raw.

Deep breath in.

Breathe out.

(There is still smoke in my lungs.)


One day she stops scrubbing and traces a scar
with a ragged fingernail.

Her mind is blank but
her skin

is a record player.
And when she lies real quiet,

she can hear it sing.


Ada Navarro Ulriksen is a Chilean-American writer who lives in California. Her poetry has appeared in the journals, soft surface poetry, Three Line Poetry, and Poetry Quarterly.

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