A Tank Without Gasoline

My grandmother once rationed her bones for each man who rapped his index fingers against the wooden table, the sound a sweet, soft knuckle for the word: skin.

My mother’s ring is the only one that fits on all my fingers — the same one that ripens enamel until the only thing that fits our mouths is: skin.

I learned of the word lust when I soaked my face in a tub and guzzled tap water as if it were the last remaining ingredient in language. I remember its taste: skin.

My tongue gives way to wire mesh, thinned by the soft ruffle of linen sheets.
I voice my body as if it were resolute, framed by weft yarn absorbing: skin.

I thumb through Bible pages and name a testament for the women
who know of only one thing before their name: skin.

And for the women who coat their flesh in goatskin before
letting any man touch what is theirs: skin.

I ask my grandmother how woman and fear are synonymous
and she responds by striking a match in her mouth.

She says, “Skin.”