Writing on Skin

You urge me to use my blunt nail on your skin.
Just any word. I can’t think, then start ‘V’ -
a downstroke. Lift. Another. The drag of skin
under my index finger. ‘E - I - N’.

There’s nothing there to see. Invisible ink.
Like when, a kid, I was into lemon juice
for spy stuff, words that dried unseeable
and needed a flame to turn them sepia.

...eleven, twelve... you’re counting, and now ‘VEIN’
is burning through like on a polaroid.
Thin rosy weals on the parchment of your wrist.
The word I’ve chosen, written in my hand.


from The Getting of Vellum (Salmon/Blackwater Press, 2000), © Catherine Byron 2000, used by permission of the author and Salmon Poetry

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1Getting Tough

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2The Favour

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3This Was Halal

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4Fat Hen

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5By Ampney Crucis

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6Slug

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7Silk and Belfast Linen

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8Calling on Annie at Holly Hill

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9Let Down

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10The Pattern of Saint Cavan

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11In Memoriam Peggy Duane Greenfield 1915-1999

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12Writing on Skin

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13Propertius 1.xix

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14Crypt

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15Coco de Mer

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16The Blue Darkness

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17The Getting of Vellum

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18Renderers

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19Minding You

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20Allowing the Animal

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21Settlements

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