The Integumentary System


From ivory to ebony,
it is what the world sees first.
Symbolic of heritage and health,
it advances with age—
the more lines,
the longer the timeline.

Twenty-two square feet of a durable, elastic material,
sometimes marred with scars,
or other marks.
It drapes our muscles,
our bones—
a cutaneous covering
that masks the workings underneath.

In shades of white-blond
to tar-black,
it is a glorious crown;
sometimes it’s sensitive
and has a bad day.
Some is fine and straight,
others, kinky,
both enduring color and heat
in the name of beauty.
It frames the eyes like fans,
adding ten years to young men’s faces,
or falls out,
adding ten years to old men’s heads.

It was the glory of Samson,
Rapunzel’s ladder,
Jo March’s independent currency.
It is shaved in protest and
in camaraderie for others with cancer;
it is refrained from clipping for salvation’s sake,
even as it is sold for its preciousness.

The weapons of mass seduction,
painted in assorted colors,
and sometimes the indigestible chew
of a nervous habit.
Whether weapons in defense of rape,
or the branding tools of mates during orgasm,
they are the crescent moons
that grow from our fingers.

It is the cover we wear—
our identity—
easily changed through chemicals,
or surgery.

It encompasses the cup fillings
that nourish the children,
that make children of men—
these soft globes
that must not move
in polite society.

For some women,
it must all be covered,
for it offends the men
who believe in a God
that created such heavenly creatures.

Originally published in The Kilgore Review, Pensacola State College, 2018

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