I’ve always been confused by skin,
which I suppose is a Christian school
prerequisite: learn the story of Jesus
in the desert facing temptation, memorize
the books of the Old Testament in order,
understand that hips and skin and shoulders
are the devil’s playground, a highway
gas station for wandering eyes and errant hands.
I had eczema as a little girl, already self-conscious
about gaping siding and tangled hair, about my love
of dragon literature, about my fat hands
and hairy shins. In winter, my eyelids cracked
like leather booths, the kind in old diners
trussed up in duct tape. The boys called me
snakeskin. I would actually love to hear
that name now, in the grocery store across
the aisles of cereal, during sex, as a byline
to a magazine article with a clever title.
The teachers hinted that skin could get you pregnant.
Yours, someone else’s, they didn’t specify whose.
Don’t touch, don’t rub, keep your hands away
from your collarbones because that creates
a very sensual pose. Don’t look at others and never
look at yourself, your own skin stretched across
child-sized bones, still hollow and birdlike.
A beautiful girl got expelled from the sixth grade
because she stood in her underpants in the band room
after school and charged a dollar a head for the boys
to look at her. Just look. She let them breathe in a room
saturated with bare skin, sticky with hot breath
and her cheap sweet pea lotion, mutual sweat casting
a sheen on the trumpets and trombones. I, with
my turtleneck and knee socks and fear of being
revealed, stood in as her bouncer and watched for free.
Maddie Woda is an undergraduate at Columbia University, studying English. She is a member of the Columbia Review and has published or forthcoming work in Midway Journal, Eclectica Magazine, and others.