“Skinned” by Katie Knoll

Katie Knoll


My uncle is skinning peaches for cobbler because I stink
like city, he says, like iron and exhaust and a girl should know
the taste of something with the sun still inside it, because when I leave
this house and go back to my mama and she breathes me in

he wants me to smell like she used to, like dirt. The peach is spurting
juice down his wrists and onto the counter. He fingers the veins in the pit,
says eat one, you’ll grow a tree inside you, your mama had one once
but she tore it up, killed it good, took you south. He says your mama

thinks she can crawl out of this ground and slit
her roots, pretend like she don’t know what sun
gave her the freckles on her skin. He says you can skin
a goddamn peach and still wanna eat it

but you can’t skin a person and keep it breathing,
and he grabs my face so the peach juice courses from his hands
down my throat and he says you cannot know a thing about the ground ’til
you’re six feet in it, but you will always have this dirt in your blood.

from Rattle #39, Spring 2013
Tribute to Southern Poets

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