A History of Melasma

Jen Karetnick

All that ink on your skin!
bartenders would marvel.
Cosmos at my elbow, I was

desperate for inspiration to quickly
enter my system, but words stained only my
face those days in blotches the color of

good coffee, whole smeared paragraphs of
heated, steeped beans, never making it from
inscribing my cheeks and forehead into  

journals. As many times as I left my
kids with grandmothers, at school, piano
lessons, ballet, soccer, they stayed with me,

masks from each birth making
novels even out of lips and eyelids.
Outright plots, each expansive mark was

pregnant with stories of the children’s
quickenings, growths, arrivals, un-
ready as I was to greet those impatient

swimmers who both times shoaled
themselves too early. Doctors called me
unlucky, suggested serums that could

varnish me one color, peels that
would strip me of my own myths.
Xanthenes. Acids. Lasers for 

youth. How I chose every treatment to
zap those tides: rip after rip after rip.