Eczema, or Some nights, my skin breaks out in rashes and I wonder where they come from
When I was five, my skin was angry,
textured to the touch and touchy–
I wanted to crawl out,
couldn't help but dig into
until I heard skin cells scratching in fingernails.
Later, the rashy skin got a more manageable name––
eczema, something I might outgrow with age.
And so, by the time I was 14, the eczema was mostly gone,
but I still didn’t outgrow crawling out of my skin.
Some nights, I thought of questions I couldn’t help but scratch. my worn fingernails picked keyboard scabs in the search bar, as I googled, “how to figure out if you’re gay?”
The cartoon people on wikihow instructed me to imagine myself kissing girls,
and I thought, yeah, I’ve tried that, that’s why I’m here. I cleared my browser
history, skin still dry.
See, I have a tendency to let these red patches grow,
watch them blossom quietly, pretend I can’t hear myself scraping them.
Maybe they’ll go away on their own,
if I never say the word queer.
The first time I kissed a girl,
her cheek was soft with sunscreen, and for once it didn’t burn me.
but the next day at school, I was still a crackling little kid,
elbow skin red and rashy,
my discomfort exposed,
itching against my sweater
like unsaid thoughts always do.
When friends asked which boy rattled around my brain,
my mouth shapes these almost-words of sunscreen kisses,
but no sound comes.
I say nothing,
GRACE ADEE is a senior at Jones College Prep in downtown Chicago. This is her fourth year participating in Louder Than A Bomb, the world's largest youth poetry slam, where she has performed at Semi Finals and Finals. She was the editor of The Mash, the Chicago Tribune's teen newspaper; her non-fiction has appeared both in that publication and in the Chicago Tribune. She enjoys scribbling dream summaries with hints of story ideas in the margins of her school work. She will be attending Columbia University next fall.