We holidayed through its incubation.
Time spent with family, the large, extended
swell of us, in a rented house by a winter sea.

What we shared that Christmas would burrow
into our warm and secret places, causing us
to begin a new year baffled by scratching.

The yo-yo trips to doctors, all those different creams
for eczema, until three generations, almost mad,
found one final diagnosis to explain

the rampant spread: ‘This proves you’re close.
We retreated to our homes, spanning west to east,
and basted itching skins. It took weeks

of tracking back: a log of everyone we’d touched,
human accounting, until we came to Grandma,
dead four months and my sister’s last visit

at the hospital, stroking the red, papery arms,
then leaving to gather up her son, and later, smooth
my baby daughter’s belly, grip my hand on a beach.


Part of The Learned Pig’s Clean Unclean editorial season, March-May 2015.


The Learned Pig

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