My face is a rickety signpost
on which a man paints : WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
Each letter of industrial varnish
drips over, then smothers,
the green lichen blooms
around my ears.
When folks drive past they read, COUNTY LINE.
Sometimes they read, CITY LIMIT.
Other times, KEEP OUT.
He steps back, shifts his weight
"Where are you from?" He repeats.
He has slathered the letters WHERE
across my eyes –
I blink through the sting.
"I am from an old oak tree," I think aloud.
"There is no oak around here."
"I am from the driftwood," I specify,
“of an old oak tree."
"There is no ocean here."
But he stops me:
"Wood cannot speak."
He had painted ?
over my lips,
Half smile, half frown, dimple on top—
a permanent expression
to a permanent question
inked in splintered flesh.