I used to collect my uncle’s skin
in a cardboard box on the nightstand
after he came home cast in red.
I used to cover him in wet towels, and bring
him freshly peeled clementines
he could eat laying on his stomach.
He told me that the Greeks mixed sand
and oil for sun block, but the sun is different
now, immune to ancient ways.
He said the mixture formed an extra skin
that only sheds when mixed with sweat.
The Greeks would save
these drops and bottle them
as Galois, sell them in the market
as a remedy. If they could heal and block
the sun, how did they help the ocean
when it boiled or the skin, scarred
by that water? Once his burn healed,
I used my nails to trail his back, leaving
white roads in red dirt flesh where
skin could follow. The paths puffed up
transparent. Slow. I peeled them. Slow.
As not to break already broken skin.
I folded them. Slow. Broad shreds,
long and cleaved like an animal’s
raw hide, confined to cardboard
on my nightstand. When the box
was full, my uncle dozed off.
Pink flesh hemmed in dry creases formed
continents on both sides of his spine.
My fingers swam to the Greece of his back.
They were safe there from outdoor light.
I reached for the box to help my uncle heal.
Flakes of skin flew to land and water
like blind seagulls, but the pink flesh
stayed sore and bright and rare.
As he slept, the flakes fell to either side of him
and the carved out shapes they left behind
no longer look like countries.about the author