Poets for Science
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Stratum Corneum

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How many layers of skin do you need between your toes?

Where the larval form of Strongyloides makes its first contact

tracking the heat and odor of your feet with its sensors

and applying its proteins to the edge of

you, your lipids and migrating cells

your wilderness.

 

All of the borders are closed. The crawl rate

of those that move

almost zero.

 

the over-edible body surrounded by its teguments

and still, there is a distance at the heart of all flesh

through which the narrowest creatures arrive

 

through sheet after sheet of keratin and cholesterol

and into your bloodstream and then to your lungs, and when

you cough them up, like words, they cannot remain

 

in your mouth so you swallow them back down

into your stomach where they feed

off the flow in your intestines.

 

Almost twenty – that’s the answer you’re looking for.

 

All there to protect you, but not to keep you pure

so who would know how many times they have been

taken in

 

until they reach maturity and shed all their eggs

into the space I thought you were saving

for the homeless, the strung out

even the dead

 

and never enough to do either.