the skin you asked for

By Lanajita Mukhopadhyay

Untitled, Tianyi Zhou

Untitled, Tianyi Zhou

after Larry Levis’“The Poem You Asked For”

my skin sang Bollywood songs  
in its sleep. i tried to get it to shut  
its mouth, but it would not stop  

talking about itself, making itself  
seen and heard— a burden,  
a disclaimer. everyone wanted  

the skin like a cloak to put on  
when cold and leave at the door.  
The skin never said no.  

it smelled like curry powder  
perfume and always shivered.  
i gave it a hood, but it became  

a threat. i gave it a smile, but  
it could not look me in the eye.  
the skin stayed inside. the skin  

liked the dark. it was afraid  
of the light. sometimes, i wished  
i could abandon the skin on your  

front porch, let you possess it, feed  
your fetish—you liked your fingers  
stained because you could wash  

your hands after—but most times,  
i wanted the skin to feel at home.  
i wanted it to listen to me again.  

i did not want it to desert me or become  
an other. but my skin walked away,  
told me it would rather sleep  

in your bed, that you liked it for itself,  
that you wanted no other color,  
that you made it feel important again.  

said it belonged with you more  
than it ever did with me.

Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay is one of the five finalists for America's National Youth Poet Laureate, in which she recently got invited to the White House to meet Michelle Obama. She was also Southeast Regional Youth Poet Laureate in 2016. Her book, this is our war, was published by The Penmanship Books, New York, USA. 

Tianyi (Josephine) Zhou,18, is a Shanghai based artist who graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London. @perdupr