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Picking

Picking

Picking

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 

It doesn’t. 


I scratch. 

I bleed. 

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 

A sock 

Anything to make it stop 


I don’t want anyone to know 

But they all do. 


My parents

My sisters 

My boyfriend 

My roommates 


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

I’m going.


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 

Like family 

Relationships 

Writing 

Work 


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.

Maybe. 

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