Surface deep is skin deep, but what alien ripples could churn from below.
Someday, the day you forget to expect it, you’ll lift your head from the hangover sink and there it will be; a flux in your appearance, a vision washed up on the delirium beach.
You’ve grown a mole, not a Monroe beauty spot, but a brown mass. Someone would point and say it looks like Detroit. A lock of hair swept across the forehead glows the violet luster of a cockroach. Spider-web wrinkles reach like tree roots to the hairline. Your teeth are bloodied, cracked in an amnesia bar fight. A scratch left your right eye a milky yellow.
Deeper, your pores sprout whiskers, lax skin flaps nurse grease. Fifth grade hygiene videos project through your mind. Sally cleanses with a fresh cloth and natural soap, Sally feels confident Monday at school.
You didn’t follow Sally’s example. Now your face crawls, skulking beneath. Relax. Don’t think the words maggot, botfly, lice, don’t picture the bulging swell.
You couldn’t have resisted this instinct. You open the blade off the nail clippers and pry. It doesn’t come clean, but sticks like rubber cement; drops of clear mucus run between your fingers. Tears blind you. It’ll get worse if you stop.
The flabby jaw and broken nose of a boxer, one eye swollen shut, is revealed below. The veins pulse with visible shocked tension. Reach in and pull. Now, it’s the hungry bones of a junkie, its cheeks like collapsed bridges, eyes the color of plastic Mardi Gras charms. Deeper. Thin, slippery lips curl into a cockeyed grimace, an open cold sore oozing pus. Scrape. Unearth a forehead barraged by pockmarks. Peel. Expose a moist grove overgrown with polyps.
You don’t ask what it means, why you, or who these silicone doppelgangers are. It’s satisfying, like popping whiteheads. You try to be cautious, to treat every greasy sheathe with care. But pieces slip into the sink and down the drain.
Deeper in, the membranes are flimsy, sliding loosely aside. A dense pulse of pain warps and wraps not only across, but inside, and then surfaces without a source. There’s an anesthesia in this distressed, ragged flesh.
Below this, your tissues are more undifferentiated, basic, and functional, the individual features sloughing into the mass. Maybe they are you, you as a degenerate in utero, you from the species next door.
This last sticky transparent skin hides nothing. It falls off the blade like boiled sugar.
How can you fear it if you can’t see it? What do they call this ghost vision? War veterans talk about this: missing limbs, parts, and organs that don’t stop thinking.
That’s how you see it. The pale profile, rubbed smooth as stones on a rough salt beach, the puzzle of tunnels, sockets, gaps and gasps elaborate and ancient.
That’s how you see it, how you will always see, have always seen, like a carcass the size of shipwrecks with eyes picked out by the gulls.
-- Genelle Chaconas is a 2015 MFA Writing and Poetics graduate of Naropa University. Their first chapbook is Fallout, Saints and Dirty Pictures (little m Press, 2011). Their work has been published or is forthcoming in Burningword, Exposition Review, Milkfist, Image OutWrite, WT Paterson’s The Asylum, Menacing Hedge, Crack the Spine, Dirty Chai, Third Wednesday, and others. They are a volunteer submission reader at Tule Review, and they hosted Red Night Poetry in Sacramento.