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"This Woman´s Skin" by Carmel Mawle



I thought I should write something

about this woman’s skin,

the way it slides beneath 

his hand, just slightly cooler, smoother, 

so the sensation of 

his substantial warmth,

and the calluses from 

constructing my dream deck planter, 

are heightened in contrast.


And I should reflect 

on how the skin of my girlhood,

described then as peaches and cream,

was a commodity

like corn and lean hog,

futures to be consumed,

by neighbor boys and the babysitter,

by the guitar instructor who

taught fourth grade,

and the teacher down the road,

who bought tequila and weed, 

and not Rainier piss-water

like the woodworking teacher

married to Mom’s co-worker,

and the list could go on.


And there is the privilege

of skin I tried to darken

by basting in baby oil

until red and freckled and peeling,

but given the benefit of the doubt

in moments of teen rebellion -

skipped classes, shoplifting, 

drunk driving, hit and run,

and Mom’s totaled blue Pinto.

My white skin meant

a stern warning, or a ride home,  

like the time a cop drove me

home in a stolen car 

with an ounce of Kona Gold

hidden beneath the drivers seat.

My white skin was never held in

a chokehold or behind bars,

never beaten or broken,

for law breaking or disrespect

or recreation.

Though I later met folks in the program 

whose white skin hadn’t saved them

from the rage of mean cops,

my peaches and cream 

gave me a free pass, 

and many second chances

I didn’t deserve.


And I marvel at how this skin contains

the slippery flesh beneath,

the pumping organs and pulsing veins,

how it covers the bones and joints,

and keeps this sloshing pile together, 

and how it has been split open, 

in falls from trees and horses and bicycles,

how it split in welcome, and in childbirth,

and to brute force, when I wrapped 

my fingers around the blade

that sliced my face and throat.


And later, how the skin tightened around

the scarred pink knot of my flesh,

how it curled into a fist,

sharpened elbows and knees,

the extended ball of my foot,

lungs and solar plexus and Hara,

to focus momentum and force

into martial precision, a clean strike, 

hard muscles and bones and skin, 

made into a weapon capable

of inflicting pain, causing

its own debilitation and death

and splitting.


And now, the thin-veined eyelid

closes and opens,

and this woman’s skin,

with soft folds and wrinkles, 

strokes a grandchild’s 

cheek and wisps of hair,

cups a tiny hand 

and fingers and toes. 

This skin,

its silvery pink scars

and sheathed weapon,

can no longer be taken.

This woman’s skin

is now freely given 

in love.

Carmel Reid Mawle is the founder of Writing for Peace, and serves as president of the Board of Directors. Carmel lives in Colorado, where she and her family enjoy hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  She is a member of the Denver Lighthouse Writers Workshop, where she is focusing on completing her first novel.


Mawle has an English Literature Degree from the University of Washington, and a varied career that includes piano instruction, as well as operating a martial arts school, teaching women’s self-defense, child safety awareness, and traditional Hayashi-Ha Shito Ryu Karate.  She served as executive director of a youth orchestra, and as president of a chamber music organization.


Her work has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly Review, Contemporary World Literature, SPACES Literary Magazine, Rocky Mountain Scribe Anthology, and KNOT Magazine.

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