The Skinless Man | Interlude: Metaphors | Freak-Show: Carnival

by Richard Paez

The Skinless Man
He started with the skin of his fingers
working up and under cuticle
an exploding view
until his hands were gloves
unraveling from the tips.

Upwards, the hollow of his arm was easy,
a bubble expanding across chest and back,
then down – sternum, stomach, scrotum –
that soft, cracking carapace making quick work,
skinning legs past knees and shins and toes.

Reaching his feet he merely stood,
leaving behind that useless membrane
that separates one from the world,
that bars us from immediacy,
and taking a step forward
became the Skinless Man
ready to revel, revel
in unabridged contact with the world.

Interlude: Metaphors
We are, the whole lot of us, nothing
but nerve endings and conditioned responses,
axons and axioms,
a collection of thought experiments
so bizarre, so impossible, so perverse
that our survival itself depends on balancing
the irreverence of one against the improbability of another,
a ludicrous panorama of levers and counterweights
tensions and resistance,
all contingent on pins and patchwork
duct-tape and nearly mindless perseverance.

Were we for a moment to stop,
to think, our architectures would collapse
into a junkyard assortment
of meaningless contrivances
mismatched parts,
biological bricolage,
and semi-personified potpourri.

Freak-Show: Carnival
We fell upon him, a mob
shocked by his sacrifice,
his nakedness, his immediacy.

We stood transfigured,
transcendent, transformed:
the mob a congregation now,

his voice a horn, blasting down walls,
removing all barriers
as he had removed his own skin.

There was no negotiating with him,
no surface for interaction,
only real contact – fluid exchange
and instant transference:

every mote that ever touched him became him,
and he it – mutual saturation,
no immunity
only perfect permeability.

He spoke, his voice a horn
that long note that removed all barriers
that forced us to imagine what it was like
to be him, to blast away our own skin.

We fell upon him, a mob
transfixed and transfigured
come to revel in his sacrifice,
the one we couldn’t make ourselves.

Rendered dumb we watched him
somehow young and old,
whole and incomplete,
and as we stared
the Skinless Man,
more in touch with this world
than anyone can ever know,
his immediacy immutable
took a step forward, spoke


(Farewell to the flesh, my friend)


Author's Note: For Jim.

Posted on 02/16/2011
Copyright © 2023 Richard Paez

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by A. Reed on 02/16/11 at 06:11 PM

I always loved your imagery.

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