Nonfiction from NER 35.2.
I was born with a strawberry hemangioma splashed over the bottom half of my right ear and two inches down my neck. The sort of red that has purple trapped inside it. A swollen, shocking hue. For the first year, I had no hair to disguise it. The sight of me made strangers uncomfortable.
My birthmark was so red and angry and I cried so murderously when my parents bathed it that it became, as I grew, the explanation for a lot of things. Why I was teased in school, why I cried easily. Why I couldn’t hear conversational tones out of my right ear.
By the time I was ten the skin faded to a mottle of mostly normal looking tissue. It looks enough like a burn scar that no one asks what happened. Mostly I forget it’s there. When a new friend asks me “what’s up with your ear?” I need a second to remember what she’s talking about. My father and I were in a motorcycle accident when I was five, I say. It tore my ear half off. When she looks sorry for asking, I tell her I was born this way. Which isn’t exactly the truth. If it was, I’d still have a stoplight for an ear.
Kate Lebo’s poems and prose have appeared in Best New Poets, the Rumpus, Gastronomica, Willow Springs, and Poetry Northwest. She is also the author of two books about the folk art of pie-making, A Commonplace Book of Pie (Chin Music Press, 2013) and Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter (Sasquatch Books, 2014). She teaches writing workshops nationally. For more, visit katelebo.com.