A Poem by Allie Blum
In the summertime the mosquitoes come out to bite me
Tiny tingling red bumps swell to the surface of my skin
When I am not quick enough to notice their needle noses
Burrowing into me
Extracting my blood
As if they have the right.
The bumps blow up like balloons
So now the mosquitoes think my body is a party they’ve all been invited to
My arms legs feet back are the invitation.
Lather up in bug spray and anti-itch cream
It doesn’t matter
I scratch and scratch and scratch like that will make the burning go away
And then I pick.
And pick again.
And pick again.
I dig craters into my skin far deeper than the mosquito goes
And it starts with the scratch.
I scratch the bites so hard they open
With the skimpy nails I too pick as my primary tool
Little red marks first form atop the bite
Before the bite takes on a new asymmetrical shape
Resulting from my incessant scratching bleeding picking scratching bleeding picking
I reject my body’s attempt at healing itself
By ripping off the new filmy skin that forms to cover
My vector-borne wounds
It sounds like paper tearing in half
And burns as if I have just been bitten again
Pain that I do not want but seek anyway
I don’t know why.
Sometimes the new filmy skin is putrid green
I call it Mutated Alien Skin
M.A.S. is not ready for picking
I must wait and keep it clean so not to get infections
Though I’ve probably already gotten some
When M.A.S. hardens into a golden yellow-brown
Think Butterscotch Dum-Dum
It is ripe for picking
And so it begins
I pick the Butterscotch
And the blood pours out
Filling that asymmetrical hole like red paint in a bucket
Spilling down my leg
I reach for a tissue
A paper towel
A piece of paper
Anything to make it stop
I don’t want anyone to know
But they all do.
They all ask,
Al, are you still picking?
No, I’m stopping. I’m trying.
So yes, I am still picking.
They see the bullseyes on my legs
Small red circles
Puffy pink skin surrounding
With an outer layer of white dead skin peeling off
This comes after Butterscotch
And they see the band-aids
Scattered from my thighs to my ankles
(So much for nude color)
They know what lies underneath
And they see the purple scars
Of varying hues and circumferences
When the scratching bleeding picking finally ends this is what the mosquito bite becomes.
Noting the scars my concerned father asks
Do we need to get you plastic surgery for the skin on your legs?
No Derd the scars are temporary and will go away in a few years if I keep them out of the sun.
Noting the scars my distraught mother tells me
I’m making you a dermatologist appointment when you’re back home.
Merm there are dermatologists where I live in New Orleans
Good ones too
I’ve seen one here
I can make my own appointments
I’m an adult.
But she already made the appointment and she’s not canceling and it’s not worth the pushback so that’s that
Noting the scars my distraught mother continues
Why don’t you discuss this with your therapist honey?
Because I only have an hour a week to talk to her so I’d rather talk about things more essential to my being
But don’t you want to know why you do it?
It’s not because depression, I’m not depressed
It’s not because anxiety, I’m not anxious
The picking is seasonal
It’s only in the summertime when the mosquitoes come out to bite me.
…Seasonal Picking Disorder?
We’re always so quick to diagnose.
Yes I’d like to understand this idiosyncrasy
You could call it a form of self-harm but I do not wish to harm myself
It’s just a picking problem.
I’d like to think I have more power over picking
Than picking does over me.
Maybe next summer I’ll stop picking.