Pictures of skin

by Jackson Nieuwland

CN: Allusions of self-harm


Pictures of skin

Pictures of skin

Cover my skin with pictures of skin

Layer them thick

Thicker than brick

Fortress of flesh to make me resilient


When I was six we went camping. Sitting in the tent one evening, my father handed me a metal box. Inside, on a bed of red velvet, was a Swiss Army knife. I tried to pull open one of the blades but it wouldn’t budge. I tried again, pulling as hard as I could, and it burst open, cutting deep into the flesh of my thumb. I looked into the cut and for a second saw white before it was drowned by the rising flood of blood.


Pictures of skin

Pictures of skin

Paper mâché and staple them in

Tear every hair from scalp, torso, and limbs

Thread them through needles and stick them back in

Stitch pictures of skin into my skin

Make them skin tight

Don’t let anything in

A perfect surface of pictures of skin


The first time I masturbated was at my grandparents’ beach house. I was in bed in the dark. My sister was asleep in a bed next to mine. I touched my penis, not knowing what I was doing. I pushed my fingers under the foreskin, exploring small nodes of flesh. My penis released a sticky substance. I was disgusted. I promised I would never do it again. I did it again the next night.


Pictures of skin

Pictures of skin

Cover me with pictures of immaculate skin

Tear pages from dermatology textbooks and porn magazines

Google image search skin     Select all results        Then click print

Cover my skin with infinite skin

Seven layers aren’t enough to keep them out and me in


We made swords in woodwork class. I spent hours sharpening mine with a plane. When I ran my finger lightly along the wooden blade it cut the skin. A few years later we used the swords in English class to perform the fight between Macbeth and Macduff. The swords collided hard, leaving notches in the blades. Max’s sword bounced off mine and hit me just below the eye. I kept going for a few moments before I the teacher told me to stop. I went to the bathroom and in the mirror saw blood dripping down my face like tears.


Pictures of skin

Pictures of skin

Cover my wounds with pictures of skin

Blood drenched paper sticks to the slits

It dries into place like a scab I won’t itch

Fix rips in my skin with pictures of skin


Or cover my wounds with pictures of wounds

Pictures of slits on my wrists

Pictures of bruises attached to my ribs

Pictures of burns on my hands and fingers

I’m not trying to build a disguise

All I want is protection

Protect my skin with pictures of skin


I was running because I was running late to meet Jono for a movie. I didn’t see the chain hung across the pathway to prevent cars from driving along it. I tripped and fell forwards, bracing against the impact with my left arm. At the end of the path, the gate was locked so I scaled the fence and dropped down on the other side, hurrying to make it to the cinema in time. After the film, my arm was still throbbing so I went to the afterhours clinic where an x-ray showed that my elbow was fractured.


Pictures of skin

Pictures of skin

Stuff them into every single orifice

Fill me to the brim

I want skin everywhere, both outside and in

Turn me to something solid

Instead of a void beneath a thin layer of skin


Or cover my orifices completely with pictures of skin

Make me whole         Make me smooth

Cover my holes with perfectly stretched skin

Conceal all blemishes with pictures of picture perfect flesh

Cover my gaps with pictures of skin

Mummify me with it

Turn me into a flawless ball of pure skin


After I tried to kill myself, my uncle gave me a knife for Christmas. It came in plastic packaging. The handle was red, so was the blade. I took it to my father. He put it away somewhere. I haven’t seen it since.


Pictures of skin

Pictures of skin

Cover my skin with pictures of other people’s skin

Different colours, textures, and shapes of skin

I don’t want to be me            I want to be them

Cover my chest with pictures of breasts

Cover my dick with pictures of bigger dicks

I’ve always wanted to be a different person

Cover me with pictures of them


Or remix my skin into a nightmarish thing

Cover my chest with pictures of limbs

Pictures of anuses all over my neck

Lips on my chin         Bellybuttons on wrists         Nipples on shins


Or cover my skin with different things

Give me tail        Give me claws         Give me angels’ wings

Cover my skin with fur, feathers, and scales

Bury me in them

Hide my skin too deep to be discovered again


Or cover my skin in invisible ink

Let me disappear under invisible pictures of skin


I would punch myself as hard as I could. In the head, the legs, the ribs. I left deep purple and black bruises. It hurt so much I thought I had broken bones inside of me. Eventually it wasn’t enough. One evening I went out to the shed and took out a hammer. I swung it at myself, again and again and again.


How do you draw a picture of skin?

Coloured pencils or pen?      Do you paint or use ink?

What kind of paper mimics the texture the best?

Blemishes so difficult to realistically represent

Pictures of skin

Pictures of skin

Cover my skin with failed pictures of skin


Pictures of pictures of pictures of skin

Photocopy my body  Copy the copy then wrap me in it

Create more copies then rip them to bits

Tear them apart to drift in the wind

I walk through the park, littering skin

Leaving a trail of bits of my skin


Pictures of skin

Pictures of skin

What is the difference between pictures and skin

Both equally thin

Equally easy to rip

Confetti of skin

Tear me apart

It’s a celebration of twitching and quivering skin


About the author

Jackson Nieuwland is a genderqueer poet from Te Whanganui-a-Tara. They are very tired and very boring. 

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