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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Skin

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deer hide near the road where we bike

You lay your skin aside like a towel, to dry, until next time. You return to it and find it stiffly weathered, caked with rain and air.

What did you feel while it was hanging there, removed from your body? Did you notice how the rain seemed to tap on every cell of you, each drop on your moist flesh a pinprick?

The breeze was a flame, not a drink quenching your skin’s thirst for refreshment. Your eyes and ears remembered, longing to share the pleasure with your cheeks.

What did your lover’s fingertips feel like, unable to slide like the wind down your back, curling up and over sun-warmed peaks? Their touch burned and halted, antagonized, wounded.

What did you long for while your skin was off? You asked to hurt less, and feel more. To read pain in the news and heal with just your bare touch. You said that you would lie under boards of a stormed and crumpled house, waiting to be rescued, if only you could put your skin back on, and feel the weight, the darkness and mystery of what it is to be found, alive.






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42 comments:

Lilith said...

When my first was first diagnosed as mentally disabled at the age of one, I felt like all of my skin had been flayed from my body. There was nothing between me and all of the pain in the world. It was too much. I was overwhelmed and withdrew.

Your writing reminded me of how I felt then, raw and exposed.

Ruth said...

Lilith, it makes me weep.

Maureen said...

A thoughtful, beautifully poetic commentary, Ruth.

Brendan said...

Skin is our earthly intermediary: without it, there is no boundary or distance between I and World. How true that such a touch would be red pain. We have a Siamese cat who when younger would only allow you to get close to her if you put her into a box. The cardboard walls allowed her the safety of proxity. To touch the Beloved without interface would be killing; to truly merge with the mind of another would be a terrifying invasion pure alien thought. Yet it was with those animal skins that Cro Magnons were able to thrive in Northern Europe; clothing skins our skins, we required two skins now, else our first be too exposed, too naked. You have me itchin' to post my Marysas poem. - Brendan

Ruth said...

Thanks, Maureen, it's easy to take skin for granted, like air.

Ruth said...

Brendan, your mention of the Siamese cat (aren't they so delicate in this way?) reminds me of a movie we recently watch called "Temple Grandin," the true story about the autistic woman who invented something important for the livestock industry after studying cattle at various points in a slaughter house.

Also importantly, for herself, she found that going into a cattle squeeze chute made her feel calm when because of autism her hypersensitivity got out of control. She invented a "hug machine" that confined her and made her feel safer, calmer.

I felt so much writing this piece and wanted to go on about the skins humans have worn for protection from the elements. I see that deer hide hanging there, and I want to take it up and put it on! I wonder why someone did such an expert job skinning the animal, only to leave it to become misshapen and to rot in the weather.

Bring on your Marysas poem, I say.

Margaret said...

...removed from your body...

Wow. You make poetry happen beautifully with what you see and experience. Thank you for sharing it here!

missing moments said...

Ruth, so beautifully expressed. Leaves me sad that the coat has been left behind ... what was the point of that.

Ruth said...

Margaret, when something captures my attention as this lone hide did, I want to get inside it, write about it, even more and longer. But life calls . . .

Thank you.

Ruth said...

Reena, thank you. Well I don't know. Don thinks it might have been a poacher. But why skin it so perfectly, with the tail and all, just to leave it behind?

Pat said...

I can't imagine coming across this on the road.

Your poetry is just beautiful. My sister was so devastated when her husband died, I imagine it felt a little like losing her own skin.

Grandmother said...

I feel sad reading this and strangely connected to this creature longing for its skin. Your writing is remarkable. Thank you.

rauf said...

Life is cruel and living is harsh Ruth, man or animal. All the philosophies make an attempt to make us feel better and they have all failed in that attempt.

Terresa said...

Fascinating write and pictures, reminds me of the deer skull I found at a campsite as a young girl. We were at a family reunion and I found it (a treasure!) and longed to take it home. My mom said yes, and before I knew it, we were on the road. Without the deer skull. I was very very sad.

Brendan said...

Done. I saw "Temple Grandin" too, and was struck how her autistic rages were quelled by touch -- that contraption she devised which squeezed her in mechanical hug. She couldn't accept touch from humans, but the device worked wonders. Temple and our Siamese Violet would make great pals. I think of all the substitutes for intimacy which are also mechanical hugs -- one-night stands, a gut gorged on ice cream and bread (which the bulimic disgorges, getting rid of mother), the singularity of extreme sports which fits one with a pelt of excitement -- endless creations of equivalence. To create something is the equivalent of giving birth. A human hug emulates the enclosure of the womb. Temple had no illusions that her devices would spare cattle from death -- rather, they were created to soothe the passage, making it easier for all. Is that what we are merely doing -- soothing the passage? Or will any pelt do? - Brendan

rosaria said...

I'm looking for words to respond because where this took me has no words, just an emptiness and a sadness that makes me want to curl up and cry quietly and alone. Yes, it is about finding oneself totally without tools, without any protection, any way to interpret the world, to communicate. Yes, our skin, our first language of touch, our first tapestry of sensations fulminating into our being.

Ruth, this is most powerful.

hedgewitch said...

For some reason this not only speaks eloquently to me of the painful exposure of being raw and skinless, but the need to change skins, to assume and shapeshift them to cover that intensest vulnerability of being our naked selves. I know for those on the autistic spectrum the intensity of feelings, the anxiety of over-feeling, of being unable to shut out sensation, is a palpable force. But I think we all, to one extent or another, yearn for whatever refuge is hidden in that pelt on the tree. Fine writing.

Babs-beetle said...

I'm finding it hard to find words to express what this made me feel. Sadness primarily.

Susan said...

This makes me so sad. I just hope whoever did it at least provided food for his family.

erin said...

i love the writing of this. it is a poem that tricked me into being inside of a poem when i thought it might be someone else's voice, yours. and really, it is anyway, just with a deeper far reaching resonance than your very present voice. i can't help but think we live and we love in these bodies. i can't help but think that i will die, or perhaps robert first. that our bodies will be separate, not just from each other but from our selves, bones to flesh to dust, and that if we are lucky we will be spirits. oh how i hope that our souls are not tied by sinew. oh how i hope that i am not just a mere electrical synapse. oh how i hope that when i am dead, or he, that we might still have these conversations.

let us never wish to be without skin for it is this very existance that allows us this, all of this, this moment, this sharing, and every one that follows after. the pain too. yes, the pain. and all of the joy. this is life. this is. let us never wish it away.

this might be my favorite piece of yours. yes. yes, it is.

xo
erin

Ruth said...

Pat, I find the deer hide beautiful in some ways, and disturbing also. Like Susie, I hope someone ate the venison.

I am so sorry about your sister's husband and the rawness she felt.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Mary. This piece is a bit tricky. At times it could be the deer speaking, at times a woman, or anyone/thing with skin. I guess each reader will hear a unique voice.

Ruth said...

rauf, you never let me/us forget that Nature is not just fluffy bunny rabbits and beautiful trees. It is harsh, and sometimes cruel. Humans bring elements to Nature that are very disturbing (an understatement). We also want to salve ourselves with beliefs that make us feel better, not only about good and evil, but about the origins of the world, all the way back to Vishnu and Krishna, Zeus and Hera.

Pauline said...

You've caught that skinless feeling so well. The last few lines particularly, describe the intensity, the I'd-do-anything-ness of being exposed to all the pain a skin protects one from.

Ruth said...

Terresa, I love picturing you finding and fondling that deer skull, studying it and wanting to understand what is inside this animal. I think of Georgia O'Keefe's fascination with dry skulls in the Southwest, how they fired her imagination, how they inspired her, connecting her with a place she had never known, to something in herself that came alive upon the discovery of them. She took them back to NYC and began her painterly exploration of that Americana, while other NY artists were inspired by and painted something else. Her balcony was loaded with skulls!

Ruth said...

Brendan, " . . . endless creations of equivalence . . . created to soothe the passage" . . . this is a remarkable vision of what we do. If only we gave our attention more to understanding this one thing about one another, imagine what a world it would be. To get inside another person's heart-mind — our spouse, children, neighbor, people in other cultures, to find out why they do what they do. Why can't diplomacy include this kind of intel, this kind of investigation?

Louise Gallagher said...

This also left me feeling sad, a need to cry, a sorrow for mankind, for our wanton disrespect of beauty, nature, holiness.

It is hard to comprehend what could have inspired someone to do such a thing -- it is hard to comprehend how betrayed that deer must have felt.

Thank you for giving voice to his/her sadness.

Ruth said...

Rosaria, thank you for reading and feeling the poem, the ache of skin, that sometimes we wish to not feel with, and yet we do not want to leave behind.

Ruth said...

Hedgewitch, thank you. Your insight is well seen. For myself, I learn to not compare myself with others, in this sense not putting on a skin that does not belong on me, but best fits another. There are many directions to go with your thoughts.

Ruth said...

Babs, well I don't like making you feel sad, you of all people, who bring so much delight to the world. There is sadness though, and all of it is not mine to apologize for, I suppose. Thank you for reading, for feeling, and for your response.

Ruth said...

Susie, I hope so too. It is strange to gaze at the hide, and wonder at the scenario.

Ruth said...

Erin, thanks, my friend. I too hope that we are not done with our conversations when our bodies slip into stillness.

I have a friend who used to be a heroin addict who said to me several years ago that she would rather have life with pain than life with no feeling. I think of her and what she said often, nearly every day.

Thank you for loving this piece. Somehow reading it now, I ask, Did I write it? I almost don't remember writing it, or getting in the feeling of it. Strange, no?

Ruth said...

Thanks, Pauline. Funny how much of the tolerance for pain comes afterward, looking back. I was so quickly ready to have a baby again after giving birth, forgetting how excruciating it was.

Ruth said...

Louise, thank you. There are so many places to go with this piece, many perspectives, many topics. Starting from the wonderment I had about why someone would leave the hide there like that, and what happened to the deer, was she eaten, etc., I left into this meditation on my own skin and many other things involving touch, feeling . . . ahh so much in this life.

erin said...

those are the best pieces. they don't necessarily come from you but travel through you.

xo
erin

Jeanie said...

Ruth, your poetry always moves me in ways I can't describe. Erin said it so well when she said your work travels through you. Talk about drawing beauty from inspiration.

Oliag said...

Beautiful....and disturbing indeed! I actually had a hard time reading it it is so intense.

Ginnie said...

Sometimes we talk about the importance of being comfortable in our own skin. If/when we're not, I 'spect it would be wise to shed it, if we can, stretch it out to weather a bit, and then perhaps put it back on to see if perhaps it fits any better. New wine in old skins, and all that, you know!

Andreas said...

This is an astonishingly powerful and visceral write. Words written directly on my skin.

ds said...

Your words are flails. I am raw; if anyone were to touch me now I would burn. My mind is with Erin: this is visceral, powerful, a haunter, a beyond...
My heart is in pieces. (this is good)

Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

One of my deepest concerns is that we are ineffective stewards while we tell ourselves we are doing such a great job.

As difficult as this is to see, I hope it gives courage to speak up when an irreverence is made of nature.

Tess Kincaid said...

I am drawn to deer hide objects. I like to think it is my Cherokee ancestors speaking. A few weeks ago, I found a wonderful deerskin handbag, a joy to the touch. I don't feel it is an irreverence to nature, but a tribute.