The Skin / La Piel

Marcela Cuevas Ríos

Marina Blitshteyn

indestructible, says the man

indestructible, says the boy


it’s wind, they say,
ghosts in the wires
ghosts in the system
mice in the walls

see this is why
we have to sell the house
sometimes there’s scratching
at night, but it’s day, i think


a man for sure, just like my god i cannot countenance, it wears the face of a boy and then
it grows the eyes of a man and then it gnaws at my inside wires and then it knows

and then it nags at my worries and then it melts away for a day and then at night it knifes
and then i cannot concentrate and then i cannot care i carrot rot i tarot i tear i rake i race i pace i parrot i part i trap i pout i top i putter i trip i rip i ripe i reap i pear i parrot i carrot i can’t 


this thing wants to play on the intercom
it pokes a finger at my trauma mine

indestructible, says the man
indestructible, says the boy



i rub the i rub
the fleshy part of a chive
up and down its
its neat green stalk only
only to slice it
i talk to it lovingly 
like i do i do a child
hiding my night knife
in the in the sink
i let the stream glide
over its little body
sturdy and thin
i’ve made a a a fetish
of vegetables
roots of the earth
fruits that punish me
for hours hours after
then at night
when the meal is cool
i rub the i rub the fleshy
part of my belly
the softer sides of my skin
avoid that sinking
feeling that springs
from emptiness
ignore that ache
a blade a blade emits
when it nicks it
nicks but 



thin is the skin, she says

thin is the skin, says the mother


in the dream i carpet my longing with love, slide his head to my mouth, i dip the tip of my tongue into his, we kiss
but it’s memory, i reconstruct my childhood but he’s there

making up for my past, i say in the morning, once i’m back in my body it lags
i have a hard time piecing my world together, we are here

in his mother’s house, the duvet is pink, the pillows are white, i sit in a cream colored chair, pretending to write

i touch my hand to his head and it’s day, it’s calm, i carpet my trauma over, i cover my songs with his hands, i cup my pulse in my breath, i close my lips over his body, i love this life but i glitch, my eye is twitching, i stitch my life in with a loop, i love our time but it stutters, i shut my eyes and it slips


the body’s a moment remembered
i moved it around the world
i’m keeping it still and spin

this world is a yarn, a gas
i held it at arm’s length and worried
i loved it so much it was glass 

i claw at this moment to render it
this morning already the past
i’m keeping its memory in me


the towel i wept in, the image i scanned, the basil i shredded, the putty i melted, the grass i ground, the flour i sifted, the mint leaf i sucked, the ears i purred into, the stain on my panties, velvet velour and satin, glossy and matte, windy and shimmering, field, ink streak, print error, film still, blur torso, arugula spring, thin is the skin between things, and thinning. 



i was a i was
a girl once, now
the ghost of a girl
i thumb at a hole with
my little nail, i make
i make a sound so 
men will hear—i loved
my mother once and
once and now i hear
her criticism in me
—in me is a host
of compromises
crowds of small
black heels i click
click clicked across
performance stages—
gender, i learned, 
was a show, a system
distancing me from
a realized woman—
i wanted i want 
to exist as a woman
but boys and men
in their cartoon shells
kept picking on me. 



to hatch a shoot from the scallion  
i cut at the stalk

in the doll of the doll is a want for oneness

the body dismembered then
remembered in parts

one line of my life to one side
i draw to the other

gum prism slick surface the floor of a pool
where my old world warps

no hologram and no ruse

two lips pushed out
two rows of gnashed teeth

a fetish of curtains cellophane vegetable, hazy medallion greens apostrophe pinks

in the tub stale soapy water
in the sink black ceramic i rub and rub

today i shut my eyes imagining one godly orb
i exhaled decades of stiffness
i poured its light down my throat

when you pull back the skin from the world
another world

on the film of the film a delicate opening

root your life in my life, it pleads  
to render surrender

indestructible, that want for oneness 
thin is the skin, my mother said 



i chip i grind i ground i gnash i gnaw 


take some valerian maybe, a gummy, a shot

practice some mindfulness, scan your body, quiet your mind

stretch in the morning, sweat in the daytime, read in bed

get out in the sunlight, get off your ass, get out of your head


i mash i grit i clamp i clench i grate


my teeth are the crown i set on my lover’s prow
my teeth are the gown i dress with his bottom lip
my teeth are the crow i free from a heavy brow
my teeth are my own to whittle into a ship


i scrape i crush i churn i slam i serrate 


and still, i sever my body, grain by grain, i spit some out
to sharpen it again against myself, still i pick
those softened parts of my fingertip, to make them
hard, to stiffen up a bit, to arm myself, to toughen the meat, to feel ok being soft, for another to eat


i bite i snap i snip i chomp i chew


to know it once is to know it
i breathe and follow my breath with no relief 

i am not there at night
and neither is my mother

and neither is the man i’ve chosen
to guard my body in sleep



there are many ways to grow life
one is changing the onion water
one is watching the spring shoots extend into light

one is making the inside wires of this machine heave 
one is hearing the same chords 
one is reaching a high key over them

there are many ways to touch a body
one is in a dream and lays soft
one is in the morning out of slumber

reach out your arm to another arm
the world before you and the world beyond
there are many ways to love them

the body the one you have
the skin that holds you in
the life you pray for with your breathing

you know what it feels like once and you know it
you put something into the world and it’s there  



Marcela Cuevas Ríos

Marcela Cuevas Ríos is a Mexican interdisciplinary artist and cultural manager with previous studies in psychology and stage design. She has worked in cinema, theater, and non-governmental organizations in the areas of art direction, performance, poetry, the coordination of artistic residencies, curation, and art therapy. Her work has been presented at the Museo Tamayo, Teatro Macedonio Alcalá, Cannes Film Festival, ULTRACinema Film Festival, and in the anthropology of art magazine RIO-LATIR.

Marina Blitshteyn

Marina Blitshteyn is the author of Two Hunters, published by Argos Books in 2019 with a CLMP Face-Out grant. Prior chapbooks include Russian for Lovers (Argos Books), Nothing Personal (Bone Bouquet Books), $kill$ (dancing girl press), and Sheet Music (Sunnyoutside Press). Her work has been anthologized in the Brooklyn Poets Anthology, The &Now Awards 3: The Best Innovative Writing, and Far Villages, forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press. She is a lecturer in composition and hybrid writing, and runs The Loose Literary Canons, a feminist reading group in NYC and over Zoom.