"Under Your Skin"

(this poem first appeared in 2016 in Winter Tales from Fox Spirit Books)

Like the girl who thinks she's about to find strawberries

in winter; disappointment

burned in you like the skunk cabbage

mistaken for fruit (hot leaves thawing holes in the snow),

to learn your father was blubber and change

from the colder pole.

 

When your mother died, the itching started.

 

1979: A young researcher rocks in the waves

of the Weddell Sea. If water can find its way

into her boat, so can he. His blood

the only warmth for a continent. Resentment

froze in her as they wintered always awake,

gnawing or rubbing at the ice to keep an air hole open.

He called you son, told you about her through the keyhole:

young, dark, wild, until you let him in.

 

When he took you south, your teeth grew numb.

 

There's one rule here:

Don't let the hole close over.

In spring there will be others, wholes and halves

like you. But now only constant scraping

incisors rasping at the opening

blizzards above.

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