The Hope of Skin
Study for Skin I, by Jasper Johns

Two Countries

Skin remembers how long the years grow
when skin is not touched, a gray tunnel
of singleness, feather lost from the tail
of a bird, swirling onto a step,
swept away by someone who never saw
it was a feather. Skin ate, walked,
slept by itself, knew how to raise a
see-you-later hand. But skin felt
it was never seen, never known as
a land on the map, nose like a city,
hip like a city, gleaming dome of the mosque
and the hundred corridors of cinnamon and rope.

Skin had hope, that’s what skin does.
Heals over the scarred place, makes a road.
Love means you breathe in two countries.
And skin remembers–silk, spiny grass,
deep in the pocket that is skin’s secret own.
Even now, when skin is not alone,
it remembers being alone and thanks something larger
that there are travelers, that people go places
larger than themselves.

–Naomi Shihab Nye

This is for my favorite and only squeeze, D.

Naomi Shihab Nye is a Palestinian American and author of Different Ways to Pray.

2 Comment

  1. a few thoughts about skin:
    …skin is a physical boundary, a membrane that separates us from the rest of the world
    …mine is never thick enough
    …skin deep–perhaps a paradox. doesn’t it all show through in one way or another?
    …when humans do not receive adequate physical affection, or touch, they can experience what is known as “skin hunger”

  2. Skin hunger. Pam, that’s a powerful term. Thanks for all of these adds to a profound physicality and metaphor.

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