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Poetry & Prose | September 30, 2019

Nanu used to rub vaseline on my skin as a baby,

gentle and tender,

when I grew older, she let me dip my fingers into her favorite cold cream,

and slather it all over my face—a smell I still remember.

 

Mamoni still tells me to stay out of the sun,

throws a hat on my head,

and blends together a mixture of turmeric and honey—

“Your skin will be lighter this way—”

“—undo all the damage it caused you.”

 

The kids at school would look at the crevices of my arms,

at the scaliness of my neck, 

and scream and scream— “She has a disease!” 

My throat would close in itself, 

so my body would catch on fire, 

wearing long sleeves and turtlenecks in the summer. 

 

Late evenings in high school spent looking in the mirror,

fingers grazing over broken skin 

knowing I would scratch every part of me 

raw as I slept.

 

This is my skin—

With the darkened patches from years of steroids,

With the three spider bite scars from living in the woods,

With the swelling fire burning red, waking up crying in pain—

 

With the birthmark on my right hand that mirrors my father’s, 

With the heart shaped scar on my foot from tripping over a rope,

With the bruises on my knees from the hard laminate floors of dance studios. 

 

The unpredictability that comes with you—

Walking through the city in a tank top for 10 minutes in the summer,

and coming out with tan lines,

And as new patches of eczema show up,

The trial and error battle of different medications begin, I realize—

 

The sun has always felt good on my skin,

even when it was broken, 

even though I tanned,

so I started to let it soak rather then rinsing it away.