Inside-out Boy. Anyone remember this cartoon?
Take everything you know
and write it on your skin
then you can carry on
and forget everything
(Newton Faulkner, Write it on your Skin)
We associate the heart with love, the brain with mind. The liver was once associated with cowardice, the spleen with bad temper. We have no such metaphors for the skin. Though it is the first thing seen, the first thing touched, we don’t associate it with something intangible. It is not a representative of a thing; it is the thing.
The skin protects us. The sting of salt wind cannot pass its barrier. It knits together and helps us to heal. It takes the brunt of our mistakes, our trips and falls, and it pulls us through. It forms scars to counter injuries, tissue thicker and stronger than what lies beneath. Skin renews every 28 days. It sheds at a rate difficult to comprehend, leaving us in a constant state of renewal.
Yet the skin also betrays us. It is the first thing noticed about us: its colour; its bruises; its scars. It blushes and blemishes. Blood vessels rising to the face create an undeniable image of embarrassment, heat or anger. The skin allows this to happen. It allows for scars to be a different colour. It allows for a bruise to burn blue. These things beg questions and it is for us, not for the skin, to answer these.
The skin is vulnerable. It is susceptible to cuts. Sharp trauma to its surface, permitting blood to fill the sudden gap. It may be an act of protection but the skin does bruise. Its cells can grow cancerous. It is always in the process of dying.
Yet the skin is hardy. It is always in the process of battling: battling the sun, our misfortunes, the acid in the rain. It fights for us against things we could not fight ourselves. In general, the skin pulls through. It is a fighter, after all. It borders on invincible.
Poem (under construction)
My skin bears the marks
not of sin but survival. She calls me
her tiger, with markings to rival
the fighters of the wild.
I’d been thinking, since I was a child
I was fighting with skin.
Now I realise my battle was never with it
She traces the part of me
constantly dying, or,
constantly being born anew,
soft between the scars.
Now I know that their burden is not mine
nor hers, but ours.