Kathleen Culver



It spread, the red on my flesh,
like a very pale blush, starts on my
cheeks, at first, I look rosy-faced, out
of breath, but exhilarated becomes puffy-faced.
My shoulders then, had I used the wrong soap
at the hotel? Hotel! Was it bedbugs?
The rash spreads in my mind,
prickles start on my back. No good mirror.
Would someone look? Would someone put
lotion on? Or would no one want to touch?
Am I spreading it when I shower? Would hot
water be bad, ice water be nice? The new laundry soap
said antiallergenic but is it new enough?
My breasts now, my stomach. Is it the polyester sheets?
The air handler, the bonfire next door?
In my dreams, I go to a new job and I’m late
the first day, unprepared to teach and nude,
wearing only rash. In the next dream,
it’s the new lover. Is it just winter, the dry air,
the winter wool clothes, the long underwear,
the polyester in the couch, the fiberglass in the filter?
Was it Borax in the kitchen, some wire burning,
should I apply aloe or take herbs or is the laptop
sending vapors? Did I wash the apples and lettuce
enough, did I touch the Christmas tree, did I touch
a public toilet, a doorknob, should I stay home
or stay out of my home? Should I use exfoliant or
loofa or avoid them? Squirrels in the walls, squirrely
ideations. Clarity arrives at knife point.
The beginning of decline, the last days arriving.

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