the outermost layer of the skin –Webster’s New World Dictionary

I hold the opaque skin to the light,
striated, papery, colorless,
an ephemeral wing of a ghost.

The creature who inhabited you,
an undulating river of muscle,
grown beyond the skin you knew,
now curving into the earth’s crust.

Brittle remnant of memory
like the husk shucked off the walnut,
the rind peeled from the fruit.

How easily you cast it off and disappear,
kissing the earth with your soft mouth.

All that is left of you is
the fragile skin I hold in my hands,
leaving my longing: a deeper hunger
than your instinct to shed.


Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Vrenios has been a professor of music for more than thirty years. She chaired the vocal and music department at American University in Washington DC, and she serves as the artistic director of the Redwoods Opera Workshop in Mendocino, California, and the Crittenden Opera Workshop in Washington DC and Boston. As an educator, she has conducted workshops in opera and vocal production at many institutions across the country and was the president of the National Opera Association. As a performer, she has sung solo recitals all over the world.





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