Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

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.

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