POETRY

OCTOBER 2016

The 83rd plate from Ernst Haeckel's ''Kunstformen der Natur'' (1904), depicting organisms classified as Lichenes. {PD-US}

The 83rd plate from Ernst Haeckel's ''Kunstformen der Natur'' (1904), depicting organisms classified as Lichenes. {PD-US}

To Skin Bare

by MICHELLE MENTING

The lichen sticks to bark grooves like skin, but dead,
dried, and peeling. Like damaged skin. Diseased skin.
 
It's skin of another, and there's a strangeness
in the act of stripping it. Almost shy. Almost
 
aware of some kind of compelled intrusion. Wayward
intimacy. Compulsion to intrude right there

on a log of balsam. You peel. You strip. You take off
the skin of this other thing. Imagine it's like peeling scabs,

not yours, a friend's, a stranger's. Or taking off clothes,
not yours, a stranger's. You can think these things in the woods.

In the woods, if you have a thought and then another
and another thought, but no one is there to watch you

weather your notions as you strip lichen off bark, as you peel
bark from tree, as you reveal the bare trunk and the ooze of sap,

does anyone sense your thought-quake? If anything
is moved—if anything shudders, if anything shakes—

it is only your own unheard heart, its wavering
wick, the dormant layers it beats beneath.