“Language is a skin…I rub my skin against your skin.”
– Roland Barthes
We have our ways
of fitting together. Peg and groove.
Mortise and tenon. Tender.
Sleeping, we wrap our bones
in another’s arms, the warm
ridges of corduroy. Topography
of relation. Heat. Nap.
ridgelines. Each of us a new
whorled. Fingerprints, our ridges,
our badges. Marked. Marking.
It’s not always easy.
For example, the hand—spike
of the finger or the raised club
of a fist. Hackles. Bared teeth.
Even eyelashes are tiny
spines. Ribs’ rigging,
braided hair. Lock. Unlock.
To corduroy is to form
a road or the like by laying logs
transversely. As a road over
swampy ground. The ground
between us. Whole cloth.
Or holed cloth. Pieces,
punctures, the wounds needling
makes, the effort required
to poke through, stitch together.
Sore thumb and steel
thimble, helmet on the tender
finger ends. Will. See it
The existentialists said
no right nor wrong, only choices.
This block or that one. Red
for heart. Brown for earth. Black
for where we came from, where
we’re going. Blue for the big
The eye moves in,
moves out. Close up the eyes
close. Inside the eyeball, tiny
peaks peek, activate. Even
inside, texture. In other words,
nothing nothing nothing,
is a smooth sea. Deep down,
coral: the calcified palace
of domesticity. How we think
this is it, this will always be it.
Until you scrape your skin
on the bottom, and if a sudden
wave pins you down. Well,
words, with their cavities
and chasms never kissed by sun,
or the foggy hills of ambiguity.
But then we speak
about love. Rope bridges, spider
webs spun out of miraculous
fiber. Honey pouring out of pores.
Light falls on this gold—
grain ready for harvest. Yellow dog
snoozing in the sun. Dogs don’t worry
about any of this, sleep on the bed
no matter what you say. So many
words but no word for this color.
Only hum: amber, camel, caramel.
This poem was written in response to a piece of textile art by Susan Wild Barnard,
and presented at the Elizabeth Lane Oliver Center for the Arts in March 2012.