Friday, March 25, 2022

Apple Skin

A little girl with round cheeks
Was born with a slight green tinge.
This, of course, was worrying,

But genetic sequencing
Confirmed it just got in there
As an inherent error,

Rare, naturally occurring,
And impossible to fix.
Didn’t look too bad at first.

They said it wasn’t fatal.
And as the girl grew greener,
Her teachers explained at school,

The children shouldn’t tease her,
Since she couldn’t help her skin.
And truthfully the children

Were usually curious,
Fascinated for a while,
But adjusted more quickly

Than adults did. Some did tease,
Now and then, since children need
To practice some cruelty

To learn how to be adults,
As kittens play at pouncing,
And cubs play to dominate.

Some of them sang, Apple Skin,
Apple Skin, you’re a Granny
Before you begin! Mostly,

This kind of nonsense ended
Past middle school, once quiet,
Genuine judgment set in,

And a teenager with green
And greener skin, who couldn’t
Go into the sun for pain

And who glowered in the dark,
Was too obviously out
Of social competition

To be worth much aggression.
That’s not what stories expect.
Stories expect bully boys

To behave as in those stories,
But mostly, if you’re a freak,
You’re more sidelined and ignored.

Her skin thickened, both vivid
And rough. She struggled with health—
Premature wrinkling, illness

From even brief exposure
To strong daylight, dependence
On synthetic supplements.

The older she was, the more
She appeared visibly strange.
But she persisted. She lived.

She grew old, even. She liked
To stay up all night, alone.
She liked to paint in the dark,

By a weak lamp, on canvas,
In oils that looked strange themselves
By day, works she filed away.

You want to know what happened?
You’ll have to come back later.
The old woman with green skin

Is still out there now, somewhere,
Not magical or a witch.
Just living. Painting, painting.

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