Monday, June 11, 2012


for Jessamyn Smyth, on her birthday

She worried at first
when her skin began to dry and peel
and fragments of it lifted and curled

like the scales of a fir cone.
The air was cold on
muscle and fat, and the grit

was unmerciful: it was only reasonable
to suppose the turn was fatal.
But later, as the flakes fell soft, and fluttered down

She felt viscera blossoming,
and strands unwinding,
and she understood

that everything was opening,
that the bones were unfolding
their gorgeous petals of marrow,

the blood was glistening
on the tip of each arteriole,
fine nets of nerve were

rooting in the ground and pulsing in the sky.
Not even the grit
could find purchase;

not even the dust
could annoy, and sleep
would come again like the shadow

of purple
on a little girl’s eyelids
when her father lifts her from the car seat

and tenderly
carries her into the house.
Home now: home at last.


Dale said...

Photo from Wikimedia commons. This is the "fir cone" I grew up with, the cone of pseudotsuga menziesii (douglas fir.)

Jessamyn said...

Dale! I love this beautiful piece, thank you so much!

I decided to ask friends for skinless art/art about skinlessness just for my own pleasure & comfort, but it's occurring to me it might make some lovely kind of collection. Hmm.

Did you ever read Mario Milosevic's old blog Conditional Reality? It's all great stuff, but he had one flash that casts a similar kind of spell as this poem of yours:


Big D said...


Lovely poem. I'm going to print it out and add it to my collection of biologic enlightenment/writing!



Kathleen said...

Beautiful. I love the poem's gentle falling, into that final gentle lifting.

ritabix said...

You are amazing, Dale. You are the poet who can write the poem about a murmuration of starlings!

Anne said...

A lovely poem. I watched my mother die and I would like to think that her departure was that gentle.

Dale said...

ritabix: thank you! I wrote a prose-poem about a murmuration of starlings, 7 years ago. But I didn't know then what it was called.

Dale said...

Thanks much, all!