a road trip across the epidermis by Cortney Collins


a road trip across the epidermis

by Cortney Collins

a gravel road of pustules

paved smooth with steroids

after a thousand oil leaks

stain the asphalt with

glistening puddles of grease

the homeopathic doctor
grooves my dirty skin going
60 miles per hour with questions

about whether I think the Bible is

God’s word and if we could get

my acne cleared up I would be a 7

instead of a 4 or 5

he leads me to a fire pit labeled

sulfur cure which is a bunch of
tiny silver pellets in a
plastic vial and figures that
even if I’m not pretty I must
hold on to that diamond-filled quarry

that is my mind

I give up and take Accutane, the

chemo of skin disease and
the box has at least ten pictures

of pregnant women with a red

“X” drawn over their bellies

but birth defects are a
moot point anyhow, because

I’d never trust a man who

would hook up with a girl who has boils on her face—

road closed, no detour

the aftermath of potholes,

visible for miles,
can give a car a flat tire and

leave a young woman
stranded on the side of the road,

afraid no one will love her

somewhere in the distance

a freeway is filled
with the traffic of admirers

flying across a

supple complexion with

invisible pores,
but I can’t even find
the frontage road

the interstate is too crowded anyway,

he says, getting down on one knee

in front of me when
I can’t leave the house

and be seen in public—
he tells me it doesn’t matter because he

loves who I am so much

I recall now how
my mom said someone

will want to touch your

face someday

ten years later everyone tells me

how beautiful my skin is
but I still take the dirt road

because I savor

solitude and silence
and places to pull
over and eat a sandwich

by myself

was it really so bad?

I wonder now,

remembering how I
felt banished from
a race of flawless women

who knew how to drive
a stick shift; remembering

the dermatologist who

pointed out that people

with psoriasis have it

much worse

I’ll never forget how it
feels to drive a
beat up old Chevy though,

through backroads,

sloshing in the
mud of self-loathing, angry

eruptions dotting a vintage

road map like overcrowded

National Park sites

thank god for rest areas
that sell topical creams
in their vending machines
and mile markers adding up

the distance from the state line,

where a gigantic Welcome sign

says the skies will clear


author photo

Cortney Collins holds a B.A. in Religious Studies and a law degree, both from the University of Arizona in Tucson. Her poems have been published by South Broadway Ghost Society, Devil’s Party Press, and others. She was a March 2019 Tupelo Press 30/30 volunteer poet, and co-facilitates a weekly poetry workshop for persons on probation in conjunction with Speakout! at Colorado State University.  A native of Nebraska, Cortney lives in Northern Colorado with her beloved cat Pablo. She loves the sight of Orion hanging low in the night sky in the winter, and Rocky Mountain thunderstorms in the summer.

(Pronouns: she/her)