This skin–yes, that’s right–
thin membrane that keeps us tucked in,
largest of organs, which well guards or fails us,
a fine architecture of covering
to corral feelings or unleash them;
elastic, hearty, our constant companion
both heals or hounds us, navigates all spaces,
invites us to welcome when it seems impossible,
finds pathways to knowledge or loving
when words cannot–
How it wraps up and wrestles with us.
Not a choose-your-own vehicle;
nor less than a lifetime of lessons;
nor clothing we can shed like a shirt;
and not only a map that can guide us,
also a worthy boat that knows to carry us–
We breathe and sweat in it, kick and leap.
It follows our bidding and we, it.
But a skin that creates you can break you.
What you find in a mirror may relieve or remind,
shock or delight you, reversals of fortune.
It will make you lonely, grant inspiration,
bring you to mysteries of a moment,
and even (flesh can do this, too) your soul–
And the day you were born was a day
your skin informed that its gifts could
test and rescue you, monitor and grow you
til death would end it, send you off, all shed.
This is your own skin which can record
trivia and secrets, herald joy, signal messages,
lift you past defeat even if broken by tragedy.
Toe to eye, lip to knee, finger to chest,
milkweed soft or volcanic tough,
old and young and years between–
this, our skin.
It stings, it bargains, it dreams.
It makes us wake up. Gives us stories.
This is your brain and body republic
now calling on courage to see one another
inside colors and shapes–each worn in victory,
in mourning, in praying, in laboring–
our ripe, frail lives that (unlike peaches, roses)
can make another tale to equalize this inner
and that outer, these powerful, those powerless.
Give hand to hand greater mercies.
Give voice to voice the blessing of respect.
These skins which brought us to earth,
may they lean into the arena of our future,
liberation unto liberation unto liberation.
(Thank you to my blended, multi-racial/multi-ethnic family)