in the flesh.

He asked unfittingly,
were I coming to bed?
As if my hands weren’t full of flakes of my own flesh.
“No, not tonight,” without looking away,
finger-painting in the pastel flushes of my own plasma,
sweet sanguine and nectar yellow,
like some kind of morbid sorbet.
“You know what this looks like,” said from the door frame,
“No,” I said again, “it isn’t the same,”
he nodded slowly,
navigating around the proof on the floor,
like he were in an infectious version of the minesweeper game.
Don’t touch it – you’ll catch it!
“It just doesn’t look the same,” he said,
as he found an untainted circumference,
settling down hesitantly on the damp and matted bath rug.
I sighed with a shrug,
unprepared for conversation, let alone an audience,
feeling his eyes heating my hands,
caught in this accidental act of self-debasement,
while he was scrutinizing the ritual washing over me,
in abject horror, admiration, amazement, or simply morbid curiosity.
Molecules and morsels of my anatomy, cells of my fibers,
my nails sickly sticky,
probing and clawing absent-mindedly,
with bits of gore, and clot, and fluid underneath,
scraps of self and tissue no longer one with my body,
or one with this disease,
sprinkling down on my flippant panties.
His gaze ascended to my face.
I knew my expression didn’t match the scene,
as if I were only baking a pastry,
but in the wrong room of the house.
Flour and powdered sugar strewn all about,
cake batter encrusted beneath my nails, and the creases of my palms,
gummy and glutinous from viscous raw eggs,
glazing the length of my draping legs,
blending with the wine and butter food color and dye.
A much less shameful mess to have to clean up with peroxide.
I knew he was evaluating,
this abstract circumstance,
like poetry or a story that’s too difficult to read,
analyzing technique, material, delivery and release,
like a mental critique of a Baroque masterpiece.
Which elements to bind, which bodies to dissect,
as if this were just some self-expressing art project,
and only I knew the interpretation.
Drawn from real life,
but I’m drawn to still life.
I clutch ice to the wound, making transparent, rose rivers,
that flowed down the landscape of my midriff and thighs.
Lumps of used tissue,
painted with each hue of the spectrum of red,
a hint or a blush, or deeply saturated,
drips and swipes of autumn apple to ponds of carnation pink,
strewn about the tile, and discarded on the sink.
I drop the safety pin.
It clinks delicately where it hits.
Don’t touch it – you’ll catch it!
He picks it up, anyway,
between forefinger and thumb, gingerly, attentively,
tenderly balances it on the tacky knob of my knee.
I refocus my attention to my ruined mass of meat,
swaying from the hurt,
on the closed lid toilet seat.
Exploring the thrum and ache and throb of pain,
like deep bass notes in jazz music, mellowly echoing and resonating.
Out of my periphery,
I see he’s turned away from me,
disturbed by my secret-turned-performance, suddenly.
“I said it’s not the same,” I said again,
“I just can’t watch you use a box cutter on yourself,”
he said while leaning against the tub,
so I forcefully chucked it on the shelf.
As my hands grew chill without his heavy look,
“I have to get it out!”
He unexpectedly loomed his face near my lacerations,
I held my breath,
he searched their layers and told me there was nothing left.
“It’s all clean, no more pieces,” with a nod,
I couldn’t stop thinking his word choices were odd.
Then, he knelt down with the alcohol and ointments,
his unsure hands dabbing disjointed,
and I felt raw, ugly, and wide open as it all started to sting.
If only he knew what he were repairing,
until all the shades and pigments were wiped gone,
until all soil washed away with water on,
until all low pangs of rhythm were just a distant song.
Even if I am a story that’s too difficult to be read,
he still again asked unfittingly,
were I coming to bed?


I can see beauty where others see ugliness. This either makes me an artist or someone of very poor taste. – Unknown


13 thoughts on “in the flesh.

      1. Yeah, I knew it was about self-harm, but I was confused by the “Don’t touch it, you’ll catch it” parts. Are you a synesthete? (I see this is tagged as synesthesia)–sorry if that’s a personal question. Having never met a synesthete myself I am somewhat curious.

      2. Some folks look at addictions, certain lifestyles or certain behaviors as something contagious – that being around it will rub off on them so that’s what that line meant. Uh, I haven’t told many people in my life but I guess I shall release to the internetz that my family and I believe I am a synesthete. 😛 Oh, and thank you for the subscription. It’s very flattering. 😛

    1. Extremely well said. Finding beauty in truth, even if it’s an unpleasant truth, may be what this poem is about. The narrator sees her self-injurious behavior as a sort of art form, but is embarrassed by its grotesqueness.

  1. Ah, definitely makes sense. I think synesthetes are probably better artists/poets/writers/creative-people-in-general, because they have such a unique perspective. Most likely they’re already thinking outside of the box 🙂 You’re quite welcome–just keep writing and I will keep listening (attentively too, I hope 😉 )

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