Scars - OFFICIAL - light

“Graffit Photosi” by Justin Hamm

The choice of whether or not to cover scarring with tattoos must take into account a myriad of factors. It is possible some scar tissue might not accept ink properly. Healing may also be more difficult and unpredictable, while pain may present at more severe levels. This is unfortunate, as any internet search proves that successful incorporation of scars into tattoo designs can yield sublime results.


Sometimes I imagine myself placing a memory, especially a painful one, into its corresponding object, allowing for a respite. A teddy bear, a baseball bat, a certain door, or an old pickup truck can be a trigger, but it can also act as a holding cell and free up space for the crystalline of clean experience. The pain now lives in the object. You must observe it occasionally, but it owns no real estate in the country of your sanity. And it can be a real pleasure to watch that object, over time, rust, rot, or decompose. 


When I was eight, nine, and ten years old, my friends and I played wiffleball in my backyard. The fence that sectioned off our “field” from the apartment complex behind was about six feet tall. I once shredded the back of my hand on that fence as I leapt to try and catch a homerun. I still wear the scar, thirty-five years later, and it resembles nothing so much as a naked tree, its branches clawing at the endlessly scrolling sky.


“Grand Canyon”

In high school, after the acne but when the scarring was at its worst, anxiety would force him into strange dreams. He told me about it. In one in particular, he’d walked over the surface of his own skin. Basketball shorts. Adidas sandals. He’d arrive at the precipice of a pockmark and stare down into the canyon of it and believe this was reality and that he knew without the soft filter of hope exactly how others must see him.

When the attendance secretary would call and leave a message for his mother, he’d crawled out of bed and erase the machine. Careful to avoid mirrors.

Justin Hamm’s most recent books are Drinking Guinness With the Dead: Poems 2014-2021 and Midwestern, a book of photographs. He is the author of three other poetry collections: The Inheritance, American Ephemeral, and Lessons in Ruin. Justin’s poems, stories, photographs, and reviews have appeared in Nimrod, The Midwest Quarterly, Southern Indiana Review, Sugar House Review, River Styx, and a host of other publications. His work has also been selected for New Poetry from the Midwest (New American Press) and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize from the St. Louis Poetry Center. In 2019, his poem “Goodbye, Sancho Panza” was chosen as part of the curriculum for the World Scholar’s Cup. It has been studied by approximately 50,000 students worldwide. In September, the WSC flew Justin to the Philippines to deliver the keynote address for their Manila global round.

Justin’s photographs have hung in the Art House Gallery in Fulton, Missouri and have earned a twelve-page, full-color feature in San Pedro River Review as well as the Inkslinger Award from Buffalo Almanack. His work has been featured in solo exhibits in Columbia, Missouri; the Normal Public Library in Normal, Illinois; Presser Arts Center in Mexico, Missouri; The Mississippi River Gallery in Hannibal, Missouri; The HUB in Rushville, Illinois; the Southern Illinois University Museum in Carbondale, Illinois; and the Kansas City Public Library.