by Frank Giampietro

To the wife the rash seems sullen and lazy this evening.
The doctor says it’s hives and if this is your skin,
imagine your heart, you’ve only yourself to blame.

The rash tries harder, says well instead of good, remembers
to ask the supermarket cashier how she is doing,
loves the smooth surface of her matronly arms.

The rash lies in the sun-damaged hammock,
admires the dead hummingbird’s wing.
Dreaming, the rash spreads, heads north,
blue as imagination.

The rash wanders fields, kills the shepherd
so the sheep will scatter,
makes more plans to brighten the world with its power,

is strongest on the weakest of chins.

“Self Portrait as a Rash” is printed here today with permission from the poet. Poem first appeared in The Offending Adam.

Frank Giampietro earned his PhD in English at Florida State University in 2010 and his first book of poems, Begin Anywhere was published by Alice James Books in the fall of 2008. He is the creator and editor of La Fovea, and Poems by Heart. His poetry, nonfiction, short-short fiction, and book reviews have appeared in journals including 32 Poems, American Book Review, Barrow Street, Black Warrior, Cimarron Review, CutBank, FENCE, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Poetry Daily, Poetry International, Rain Taxi, and Subtropics. Currently, he is a resident scholar at The Southern Review and lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Editor’s Note: This poem speaks humorously, seductively, to that struggle in our souls between the self who takes a perverse pleasure in abandonment, runs downhill screaming into a peaceful flock of sandpipers on the shore, revels in malaise, aches to taint something pure, and the self who strives to resist these impulses. Giampietro deftly imagines the implications of these urges as they grow from local nuisance to global threat in the final lines of the poem. One poisoned heart, one poisoned world. Better rub some cream on that weak chin.

Want to read more by and about Frank Giampietro?
The Offending Adam
FRank Giampietro


  1. Love, love, love this poem. Never thought I would love a poem about a rash, but then, it’s not really about a rash at all, is it? “if this is your skin, imagine your heart.” I die. You’re lucky you saw it first in TOA, or I would have poached him myself. 😉 Also, so glad you’re now doing an Editor’s Note. I absolutely love what you have to say, and love even more the way you say it. You’re going to keep me on my toes my dear!


  2. Thanks Sivan. I love it when you say, “I die.” I found myself saying it to myself in my own head the other day. It’s spreading to LA! (like a rash)


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