Allison Funk

A History of My Skin

Just when I thought I’d finished
reading it, I discovered
a chapter I’d missed.
Similar, perhaps, to finding
one ancient text under another
on the untanned skins of calves
scribes reused, rubbing them
with pumice or lemon juice
until the original
nearly disappeared.

Still damp from a shower,
I noticed below my waist,
between my left hip and navel,
a little asymmetrical brown spot
that told me sun once shone there
long enough to leave its mark.
Wondering when that part
of me was last exposed,
I doubled back to the sixties
and a bikinied teen

far from the cities that burned,
Harlem, Newark, Watts, Detroit,
those summers I was tanning.
By winter, my skin blank
as a baby’s again,
I’d thought, no harm done,
as if anything could be erased.
Ignorance, my blindness.
Look, I think since. Find
what else you’re hiding from.




This late I’m still not in the body
          I’m trying to occupy.
No more there than the owls
          real only in the ruckus
they make at night—
          try catching sight of one
by day. Just once overhead
          I felt a gust, a sudden coolness,
and glimpsed a shadow cast
          in passing. Elusive
as the cricket in my house
          that stops shrilling
when I darken the stairs.
          (As if my airiness
could darken a thing.)
          Downstream, downwind
of water falling
          from a height,
its forte, fortissimo,
I can hardly hear the lub-dub
          of my heart.
Gorgeous fury
          I’m outside of.



Allison Funk is author of five books of poems, most recently Wonder Rooms, from Free Verse Editions of Parlor Press. She is a recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and awards from the Poetry Foundation, Poetry Society of America, and the arts councils of Illinois and Delaware. Her work has appeared in the Paris Review, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Pleiades, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Journal, Cincinnati Review, The Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. She recently retired from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, where she taught creative writing.