Russell Shorto

If I Rubbed You Where That Rub Would Burn

If I rubbed you where that rub would burn

That burn that bred in me a swell, would you in turn

Flow riverward and feed my bruise, front this lust

For heart and horn, and yeasting wake within yourself

An echoed form so that we twinned and so reworked

The substance bled and borne from home, and angled home?

If you built within your soul a roof for showers,

And let them flow on my command, would I respect

The avenues that rivulets encountered, birthed

Along the slats and rolling downhill to your cut?

If you didn’t have the scar I haven’t seen

I would invent it, and press it softly to you

For you display no damage sign

which shocks my feel of what is right.  You smile

In green-brown with your eyes, which cuts

A path and makes a way.  But static is the slur

With which you try to beat me back: I’m stuck,

You say: also blasé, and anonymous and aging,

Sagging with gray rain.  And if you touch my scar

Comes pain.

Let pain, I say.

If you peeled me till no burn would mind

If raining from your roof was ever all

If rivers fed these thousand thoughts of fear

Till fear flowed inside-out, then skin become

A badge of secrets on display, and pain is bright,

And rubbing horns would make the night the day.

About the Author

  I was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I have three children (Anna, Eva and Anthony) and three step-children (Reinier, Hector and Benjamin).  I write books of narrative history; I believe history is most meaningful to us when it manifests itself through individuals in conflict. My books have been published in fourteen languages and have won numerous awards.  I am senior scholar at the New Netherland Institute and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. My interests include the past, the present and the future, not necessarily in that order.  

photo by Keke Keukelaar