I had better not scratch

I had better not scratch

It itches,
this odd blood in my veins;
An irritation
that throbs irregular venom-stings,
tumefying the heart
like a lie whispered to a child: Come with me; I won’t hurt you,
words that dance
over milk carton pictures;
words that swim around
in broken parents’ cereal bowls.

It itches,
this invisible darkness;
wild, white fire
stripping away the core of the soul,
softening bones,
like a branding iron on the skin of a heifer: Sh, sh, it’s only a cow,
a marking that leaves
more than just number;
a marking that lives
under the skin.

I had better not scratch.

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