Scars by Daniel Halpern


They are the short stories of the flesh,

can evoke the entire event

in a moment--the action, the scent


and sound--place you there a second time.

It’s as if the flesh decides to hold

onto what threatens its well-being.

They become part of the map marking

the pain we’ve had to endure.

If only the heart were so ruthless,


willing to document what it lived

by branding even those sensitive

tissues so information might flow back.

It’s easy to recall what doesn’t heal,

more difficult to call back what leaves

no mark, what depends on memory


to bring forward what’s been gone so long.

The heart’s too gentle. It won’t hold

before us what we may still need to see.

From “Tango, Poems” (Elisabeth Sifton/Viking: $17.95; 96 pp., 1987, by permission). Daniel Halpern is an editor and publisher as well as a poet. Many of the poems in “Tango” reflect a life on the move. Only a few begin, like “Scars,” from within and work out, but these few are among the best in the collection.