The thing about birthmarks is you can’t ever get rid of them. Not even if you scrape, not even with a knife. Put your dishpan hands on the steering wheel, mother. Othello missed the school bus. Did he inherit the family cleft?

A garble of origin binds his ear to your mouth, to your womb, to the homeland. Pencil on a beauty spot. There’s a coffee stain continent on his cheek you can’t wipe off. It is written all Geminis will be late to work today. Can you find constellations on your arms?

A man slurs at the disabled sticker clotting an intersection, their windshield baptised by a gummy yob. 24601 inked along his forearm, scraping the window for a meal ticket. He lisps about his childhood, his breasts, his brother. You ask him, “Were you born from a bloody smile, knee-deep in swine muck, foreskin sliced, hollering faith?” Your pen blots his assessment journal, and he pulls up his t-shirt to show you the bruises.

Voiceworks #81 Birthmark features fiction by Jack Madin, Ariella Van Luyn and Matilda Grogan; poetry by Jalen Lyle-Holmes, Holly Voigt and Adolfo Aranjuez; and an interview with Look Who’s Morphing author Tom Cho.  James U. Mangisi argues education will save us from breeding ourselves into extinction; Anna Angel asks us what really lies beneath our radiant Southern Cross; and Aaron Benson asks the music industry and the internet to play nice.

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