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Saturday, December 05, 2020


by Penelope Scambly Schott

"Knee" by Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), February-June 1886: chalk on paper, 10.2 cm x 13.6 cm. Credit: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

We hadn’t really understood
the lunatic loneliness of skin.
Now, it’s the careful withholding
of the over-eager hand,
the lack of the comforting pat
on a friend’s shoulder,
no quick notifying tap
against a stranger’s sleeve,
no glad hug of greeting
or clinging hug of goodbye
Now we need to caress
the hand-smoothed bannister,
the weave of the couch,
bumps on the pickling cucumber,
the rough skin of our elbows,
or the childlike folds
of our own getting-old knees.

Penelope Scambly Schott is a past recipient of the Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Her newest book is On Dufur Hill, poems about the cycle of the year in a small wheat-growing town.