In which our skin, our lives, our sins conflate

Your body goes under a clawhammer
cold river. When you come up
you’re in my skin—the man who made

the man who made you. Every muscle
pulsing, tensed, every decade
between us wet-mouthed, parted,

reverent. Daughter of my son, my cross,
my tangled whip, listen: living is actually effortless
if you let the land flood and rot, flood

and rot. If you just let violence rise
to the surface like cream. Sometimes I crave
the cake I ate with my fingers at my first

wedding. I still see the mason jar lights
strung up in a barn of white
pine blurring behind whiskey shots

and the long shadows of her family’s
minister. I still see the the boy in me (the holes
in him) hiding behind hay bales

from a vicious future—the first wife I left
reeking of copper in a sanitorium, the hammer
I used to try to see the secrets

in my second wife’s wasp paper skull, the war
of broken ankles I went to but never
spoke of. The way my skin peeled from the steamheat

of Italian restaurant kitchens. The little girls I watched
playing in the mud on the pond’s shore,
their lithe, summer bodies, their sticky

swimsuits. What could I be
but who I was made to be? The spiked shell
of the snapping turtle you found

on the side of that Virginia road
was picked clean by turkey vultures
long before you could pretend to love it.

Caitlin Scarano.jpg

Caitlin Scarano is a poet based in northwest Washington. She holds a PhD in English (creative writing) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She was selected as a participant in the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists & Writers Program and spent November 2018 in McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Her debut collection of poems, Do Not Bring Him Water, was released in Fall 2017 by Write Bloody Publishing. You can find her at