Noel Sikorski: Eczema

The allergies have taken my older brother’s body.
At 5’11, Chris is a hundred and thirty pounds of
inflamed epidermis. Everyday, for months, he scratches
until blood and skin pucker into hard helmets of scabs,
crafted to be pulled off. Culpability, here,
is obvious. The specialist warns us to watch his diet
and gives a lengthy list of possible allergens.
Chris has learned to think, if I eat, I will itch. A variation of
if they eat, will they like me, a question he examined
when in school and outside the confines of Special Ed,
where integration involved lunch money. How those kids knew
Chris would never tattle, even when he went hungry,
must be perceptible only to readers of the subcutaneous,
for whom skin tests are quick conversations. For them,
the results revealed his willingness to barter: two dollars
an acknowledgment, even if it was, what’s up retard,
even if it were more dubious, like an unidentified allergen,
that man never identified because Chris remembered
the smell of pastries cooking most distinctly. If rape
is a word my brother cannot understand and barely remembers
may I label his as such? Or can that afternoon, if the rape
happened in the afternoon, my parents were never sure,
be rationalized as symbiotic exchange, the type that brings
his tranquilizers to mind and this physical cost of tranquility–
the what happens when the nervous system is altered by a pill,
the price for someone not to walk away when he speaks.

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