Dan Holloway – From Skinbook

From SKIN BOOK
This was the first poem I wrote after I decided I wanted to be a writer. I wrote it to perform at the launch of the Year Zero Writers collective at Brick Lane’s Rough Trade. It’s imperfect in many ways as a poem, as early efforts always are, but its message – that anyone, however ostracised from society, can find love – is one I’ve come back to again and again.

SKIN BOOK
Tonight I felt your eyes
on my skin
like they’re wet lips sucking the sweat off me. I sat at the bar with a mojito, thinking it’s winter and there’s still the hot nylon scratch of cheap clothing
on my skin.
I felt the drink go sour in my throat; I pissed it down the shitpan, and scrubbed away the stench but the soap smelled worse
on my skin
so I stuffed garlic butter chicken down my throat that fucked with the mojito in my belly and squeezed out rancid pustules that sat like oily islands
on my skin
and walked out, pushing my shoe against the crease of your trouser leg as I passed you at the table by the door. I sat in the car and replayed the sound of the cloth and thought the mucus in my mother’s gut was the last time I felt another person
on my skin
and I saw Jon leaning still against the sideboard, and the lilt of his words, the gentle patter, the casual way he told me what he wanted, and how cold the metal, and how hot the liquid, and how the mucus in my mother’s gut was the last time I felt another living person
on my skin.
Driving home I wondered, is it wrong to want your snot-piss-shit-come-vomit
on my skin?
The cotton sheets stroke, suck, soothe and I lie down and count, 32 years, 32 marks in the front of my SKIN BOOK, and maybe when I’m 80, a life and a half from now, maybe when I’m 80 I’ll lose my mind and take off the sweat-fuck plastic scratch pants and see what it’s like to have the sun
on my skin
but now I’d like to take your snot-piss-shit-come-vomit, filtered through the nylon mesh, and spread it
on my skin
and tell my SKIN BOOK how you feel.
*
You said
“When I was a child I prayed to God for cancer every night, for the doctor to tell my parents ‘your son’s dying’ and them to notice they had a son. But I turned 18 and I’d never even had the flu so God and I went our separate ways.”
I said
“How does it feel to be invisible? I bet the freedom makes you kinda drunk.”
and you said
“Sometimes I ride the subway all day and no one sees me; I’ll walk the carriage and see a pair of tits and hang them in the tit gallery in my head. I look through the cloth and between the buttons and where the edge of the fabric comes loose from the skin and I trace the curve of the tits, and the pert, plump fullness of the tits and the sleek pointed skin tapering the tits to the nipples; and I go home and walk all night through the rooms of my tit gallery and I come and the voice says come on my tits and fingers touch and we come together in the tit gallery in my head.”
and I said
“Do YOU ever touch?”
You said
“I’m not some kind of fucking pervert”
and I said
“You’re exactly some kind of fucking pervert”
and you said
“So why do you hang out with me?”
I said
“You’re my fuck crush”
and you said
“I don’t wanna fuck”
and I said
“I can’t fuck”
and spent the night taking pictures on my cell phone and the day pasting them into my SKIN BOOK.
*
I was
12
and he said I want to touch, just once, that’s all, my skin on yours, and I said I don’t want you to touch and he said I want to touch and I said you’re not listening. He said I want to touch there and I want to touch there where the skin feels different, and carry the memory on my fingers and put it where my skin feels different and I said I don’t want you to touch.
12
times the eyelids opened in my head and bile and lust and fear pushed the eyelids open on my face and sent me to my desk to open my SKIN BOOK and make the choice: I will not die today. I will not die before this page is full. I’m 32 and there are
12
full pages in my SKIN BOOK. I carry their memory in my fingers, and I put my fingers on my skin and touch and it feels different from my SKIN BOOK. I think how he felt, and how he feels, and close my eyes and stop my ears and know the difference between them is the breath and the heartbeat and the stench of pheromone that makes one of them alive. It’s
12
o’clock and I open my eyes and think, I will not die today.
I was
12
when he said fuck me and I said yes fuck you, and wrote on the first page of my SKIN BOOK, tomorrow I’ll be
13.