This selection, chosen by Guest Editor Jordi Alonso, is from The Ministry of Flowers by Andrea Witzke Slot, released by Valley Press in 2020.
An autobiography called skin
Small, red, rinsed, held. Fleshy folds in tiny fists shaken.
Something like blessings dress the pleats of infant skin.
In shared baths, three sisters inspect split knees and stitched chins.
Laughter mixes with broken words, broken hearts, broken skin.
Long drives of teenage discovery, of mouths, hands, lights dimmed.
Collisions called education, drunken summer nights, near a cool lake, skin to skin.
The arguer refuses the status quo, works on factory floors, learns her bruises are from him.
Dialogues sharpen visions of change. Three women swear to defend one another’s skin.
And still she exists: the college-girl hubris, the shame of stringbean limbs.
All that can never be. Why can’t youth love the smooth deceit of skin?
Mismatched desire in a place I cannot begin or end.
I fall for a man who falls for me. He becomes my country of world-weary skin.
Meet the graduate, love in an upturned bed, a country without kin.
Slough off the old, smile through brutal truths, dress in a pretty wife-skin.
Moments too soon, a firstborn splendour slips into being.
This wide-eyed girl rests holy at my breast, feeds from aureole moon-skin.
Years pass: teaching, reading, painting strange synesthetic dreams.
What is love but trying, staying, fighting for what lives inside children’s skin?
Bruises yellow in waters of need, as into the world, a second swims.
She unfolds maps to places I’ve never been, riverscapes of maternal skin.
Courage grows for them. Husband turns into gone. Back to a country where once I lived.
For two daughters, I learn alone: the touch of one between sheets of untouched skin.
Poverty arrives. Two daughters, three jobs, a land-locked PhD. I learn what addiction is.
For nights I cry on a bathroom floor. Prayer lives in many skins.