Skin

“Skin” is one of fifteen poems selected by the League of Canadian Poets for the Poem in Your Pocket Day brochure 2021 (plus postcard and forthcoming audio recording). The poems are also presented in the PIYP Day brochure from the Academy of American Poets. I wrote the poem in 2002 based on a scene I witnessed as a young child together with my father. He immediately wrote a protest letter and asked me as an eleven-year-old to proofread his English. At the time of my father’s death in 2008 his friend Ed gave me two of the letters my father had written him. Ed at that time was unaware of my 2002 poem. One of my father’s letters detailed the scene described in the poem along with a copy of the letter he sent to the police. “The described occurrence was witnessed personally and one other eyewitness, whose name will be given on request…Should I find either personal harassment or further incidents of the same nature I will then be forced to send copies of this letter to…the Human Rights Commission, House of Commons, Ottawa. No doubt you will wish to reply to my letter explaining what you have done to right this injustice.”

What have we done collectively and individually to right these injustices? George Floyd is one name among far too many names and he was not murdered decades ago (which would not have made his murder less harmful nor less significant) but he was murdered in our time in a nonstop global history of ongoing harassment, brutality, violence and murder against people who are falsely labeled as other. Why does this keep happening and how do we work to cause change? We still have a very long way to go before all people globally feel they can walk safely in their communities and beyond. Vanessa Magic writes for the CBC, “The idea that I could receive a call from someone saying my son was murdered by the very people who swore to serve and protect him is beyond devastating.”

I tried to edit the poem down to its essence. The 2002 draft of my poem was longer and this was the original last stanza:

The man was probably

a father, probably the

same age as

my father and if he held

my hand in his hand I would feel

the warmth of his skin

and this would be the same warmth

as my father’s skin.

You can read all fifteen Canadian Poem In Your Pocket Day poems here.

  • Start a “poems for pockets” giveaway in your school or workplace
  • Urge local businesses to offer discounts for those carrying poems
  • Post pocket-sized verses in public places
  • Memorize a poem
  • Start a street team to pass out poems in your community
  • Distribute bookmarks with your favorite lines of poetry
  • Add a poem to your email footer
  • Post lines from your favorite poem on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr
  • Send a poem to a friend

2 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this–especially today. Since this must have happened in our own small town, we should know that we all need to work together to speak out when we see injustice done. Your father taught you a powerful lesson.

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