I’m reworking “The Nightsky Often Looks Like a Mound of Feathers” and retitled the poem (I may re-use this title in a future poem). Here’s the result:
A LETTER TO CALICO SKIN
Early on, you appeared
like a curled robe
on the side of a highway, like
a young woman dying in the corner
of a room. For years, you appeared,
followed me to states I could not travel to
in real life. I remember the way
you seemed to make others ill,
as they disappeared
from my dreams
After years of silence, I found you
in a poem, in the form of a man,
with a name for the illness
that I could not name as a child: leprosy.
And again you returned—I was lost in the woods
and you gained ground, bending with
the shadows, offering me flowers
with poisonous thorns.
Soon I realized you might follow
others: the way he described a woman
with calico hair, and I tried
to not believe him.
I collected flowers, like you in the woods.
It was when I began to search
for sunlight when I wondered
if I had ever told him about you.
Stared at the roses. In this moment,
you became an impenetrable mass
The poem referred to in Section 2 is David Dodd Lee’s “The Calico Man,” from Orphan, Indiana (University of Akron Press, 2010).