Forty Ways of Looking at Skin

The skin is breath made
Visible-- frost on windows,
Steam from a kettle

Skin's the black silk hat
Out of which all those rabbits
Insist on jumping

Skin's a flag which carves
The air to its own shape with
Invisible knives

Skin's a wooden sheath
On a butcher block table
Holder of long knives

Saying nothing, skin
Protests its own innocence
Skin's in a line up

Skin is waxed paper,
Orange rinds, plastic bottles.
Skin makes me queasy

Skin is the busted
Refrigerator in which
Shroedinger's cat's trapped

Skin's a fur coat wrapped
Around a naked model,
Call girl, prostitute

Skin's a church, skin's a
Steeple-- Open it up and
See all the people

The skin's a blanket
Pairs of sweaty teenagers
Grapple under it

Skin's a circle of
Boulders guarding the entrance
To an empty tomb

Skin's the wide water
Across which every lover
Has to learn to walk

Skin's an octopus
Eight tentacles wrapped around
A beady-eyed mouse

The skin's the box in
The kitchen where our tomcat
Bites ice off his paws

The skin is a boy
With his finger in a whole
Apres moi, who knows?

The skin committed
A crime in Eden and now
It's covering up

Every organ has
A totem beast.  The skin's is
A rhinoceros

Skin's not committed
To violence-- it just drives
The getaway car

Skin's the cellophane
Box in which prom roses are
Sometimes delivered

Skin is a world map
Tacked up on a classroom wall
Dotted with pushpins

Skin is the dropcloth
Spread over a hardwood floor
Lavishly splattered

Skin is a stocking
Hung by the chimney, full of
Mechanical toys

Skin's a lunchbox with
Grapes, a bologna sandwich,
A leaky thermos

Skin is the brown stuff
Onions leave behind before
Anybody's crying

The skin's a desert
Ozymandias' column
A piece of white chalk
        Skin's a bag full of
Bones with which inveterate 
Gamblers come to grips

The skin's a highway
Impulses travel on it--
Disheveled gypsies

Skin's the sea surface
Things lurk in its salty depths
Too fierce to mention

The skin's a suitcase
Sprung open in a motel
Tumbling underwear

The skin's a blackboard
The math teacher is strict but
Uses colored chalk

Skin is the small bed
Where a child lies, unable
To sleep or call out

Skin's a barbed wire weave
>From which black birds consider
Concentration camps

Skin's a bathtub 
In which a man lies, singing
Half-remembered songs

Skin's a bird feeder
With holes in which you put seed
Or from which seed comes

Skin is picture glass
Hands over mouths, the thin ice
On which skaters skate

The skin's a penny
Seen by a schoolgirl with her
Nose to the gutter

The skin's a piece of
Paper mailed before Christmas--
A list of scrawled wants

Skin's an Arctic
Snowfield-- miles of white around
An imagined stick

Skin's an envelope
Of old letters, bills, rough drafts,
Notes for a lecture

The skin's a blackboard
Covered with old formulas
And new equations

Skin on old people
Is the Big Top just after
Dumbo pulled it down

Skin is a slipcover
A vacationing housewife
Put on the furniture

Skin's a great white whale
The one into which Jonah
Swam like a minnow

Skin's a glass bottle
Inside, there's a small blue sea
A matchstick schooner

Skin is a snake of 
Blank paper which keeps hissing:

Skin's the wall in front
Of which conspirators are
Taken out and shot

My skin's a boundary
With established checkpoints. Yours
Is a D.M.Z.

Skin's the coveralls
Worn by a strawman standing
In an August field

Skin is what creeps down 
Your fingernails: determined
Moss over a grave

Lyn Coffin