Shirts or Skins, a 2014 poetry chapbook by Jim Redmond

Shirts or Skins

This was when I wasn’t sure
if I was a boy any longer.

I would wait at the window
for the other boys

to press their faces
against the glass

into the mold of mine,

to breathe their breath
up against this,

but they never came.

I couldn’t wait
any longer. I had to start walking
toward the woods.

I came to a great stone;
big obsidian quiet
by a whole field

of magnetic afflictions
strung out to dry
under a sentinel hum.

Tall trees, I felt them:
toenails curled under
the toe, wet coils of pubis.

I could not make out the image
the stone wished to make for me,
but felt it wanted to make it.

Someone had washed
this certainty away

in a rain over
seamless dead skin;

a dark pit, sweet calloused center.
Hard candy stuck in the throat.

The stone could have fit the palm
of a giant perfectly. The stone

could have at least given me
a fingerprint. I tried

to find an opening,
but there was no way into it.

Under the trees
there were piles of salt.

No. They were people … once.
Powdered milk poured out

of missing children
—words like the dry
hiss of a gas leak

or a jewelry
box of old coins—

with the faces bald and worn
off the carton,
but some of the dates still there,

last seen 1984, 92, 95 …

Originally published at TYPO Magazine


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