Something Like #15: Skin Hunger
18 June 2020
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In today’s episode, we ask, how can a lack of touch, a lack o hapticality arouse so much in us? What does it mean to be deprived of touch as animals, and what does loneliness have to do with physical contact? If we’re not touching other people, what exactly are we touching?
- Thank you as always to Roger 3000 for providing the intro music for this show
- Underneath my voice today you will hear Hildegard von Bingen’s Canticles of Ecstasy, performed by Sequentia (1993)
Robin Beth Schaer
The dead are for morticians & butchers
to touch. Only a gloved hand. Even my son
will leave a grounded wren or bat alone
like a hot stove. When he spots a monarch
in the driveway he stares. It’s dead,
I say, you can touch it. The opposite rule:
butterflies are too fragile to hold
alive, just the brush of skin could rip
a wing. He skims the orange & black whorls
with only two fingers, the way he learned
to feel the backs of starfish & horseshoe crabs
at the zoo, the way he thinks we touch
all strangers. I was sad to be born, he tells me,
because it means I will die. I once loved someone
I never touched. We played records & drank
coffee from chipped bowls, but didn’t speak
of the days pierced by radiation. A friend
said: Let her pretend. She needs one person
who doesn’t know. If I held her, I would
have left bruises, if I undressed her, I would
have seen scars, so we never touched
& she never had to say she was dying.
We should hold each other more
while we are still alive, even if it hurts.
People really die of loneliness, skin hunger
the doctors call it. In a study on love,
baby monkeys were given a choice
between a wire mother with milk
& a wool mother with none. Like them,
I would choose to starve & hold the soft body.
Copyright © 2019 by Robin Beth Schaer.
Touch Gallery: Joan of Arc
by Mary Szybist
The sculptures in this gallery have been
carefully treated with a protective wax
so that visitors may touch them.
—exhibitions, the art institute
Stone soldier, it’s okay now.
I’ve removed my rings, my watch, my bracelets.
I’m allowed, brave girl,
to touch you here, where the mail covers your throat,
your full neck, down your shoulders
to here, where raised unlatchable buckles
mock-fasten your plated armor.
Nothing peels from you.
Your skin gleams like the silver earrings
you do not wear.
Above you, museum windows gleam October.
Above you, high gold leaves flinch in the garden,
but the flat immovable leaves entwined in your hair to crown you
go through what my fingers can’t.
I want you to have a mind I can turn in my hands.
You have a smooth and upturned chin,
cold cheeks, unbruisable eyes,
and hair as grooved as fig skin.
It’s October, but it’s not October
behind your ears, which don’t hint
of dark birds moving overhead,
or of the blush and canary leaves
in slow spasms
into shallow hedgerows.
Still bride of your own armor,
bride of your own blind eyes,
this isn’t an appeal.
If I could I would let your hair down
and make your ears disappear.
Your head at my shoulder, my fingers on your lips—
as if the cool of your stone curls were the cool
of an evening—
as if you were about to eat salt from my hand.
Copyright © 2013 by Mary Szybist.
1). Life Without Buildings, The Leanover (Any Other City, 2001)
2). Iceblink, Cellphone in the Bath (Carpet Cocoon, 2020)
3). Erykah Badu feat. André 3000, Hello (But You Caint Use My Phone, 2015)
4). Abdul Wadud, In a Breeze, (By Myself, 1977)
5). FKA Twigs feat. Lucinda Chua (Cellophane, Magdalene, 2019)
6). Liam Byrne, Les Voix Humaines (Concrete, 2019)
7). Andy Bey, The Power of My Mind (Experience & Judgement, 1973)
8). H.Takahashi, Circulation (Low Power, 2019)
9). Hildegard V. Bingen, O Rubor Sanguinis (Sequentia, Voice of the Blood, 1995)
10). Arca, Piel (Arca, 2017)
11). Jeanne Lee, Yeh Come T’beh (Conspiracy, 1975)
12). Curd Duca, Touch (Elevator 2, 1999)
13). Patti Smith, The Histories of The Universe (Giorno Poety Systems: Big Ego, 1978)
14). February Montaine, Kubler Rosa (As Late as the Light that Hides it, 2019)
15). Simone Forti, Face Tunes (1968) (Al Dal La, 2018)
16). Mary Szybist, Touch Gallery: Joan of Arc (2013)
17). Eartheater, Below the Clavicle (2020)
18). Planetary Peace, I Am That I Am (Synthesis, 1980)
19). Bitsy Knox & Roger 3000, Your Body (2019)
20). Mark Renner, Wounds (Few Traces, 1986)
21). Madonna, Substitute for Love/ Drowned World (Ray Of Light, 1997)