Holding On

The sheets were white, pristine,
but you could see the dark smudges -
traceries, leavings of black, salt and pain,
as tears that washed away mascara left
brutal, incriminating trails over the swell of her pillow,
the smoothness of those sheets.

Holding her hand, the skin was paper,
crisp at the edges.  Soft, small, frail,
and if you held on tight enough
you wouldn't notice the shaking,
wouldn't mind the bitten nails that
dug into your palm, because at least then,
holding on strong, those faint coal-
colored smears on the backs of her hands
held no meaning; her eyes were dry now,
the sheets were clean again.  And you'd wonder,
running desperate fingers over the curve of her wrist,
feeling her pulse under rice-parchment skin,
if someday you will be able to hold on
tight enough to ignore the scars.