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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)

Holdfast

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

of chicago

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

emptying themselves

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. 

Playlist

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)

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