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Unknown and Angry Man: Psoriasis Annulata
Private collection of John Wood
THIS CASE shows both the scaly rings and the gyrate bands of scales which are frequently seen at the margin of a large pigmented area from which the active eruption has disappeared. The treatment is simple as far as regards the removal of the eruption. It is a much more difficult matter to prevent its return. The scales of psoriasis have been compared to silver and to mother of pearl.
[George Henry Fox (1846-1937), American pioneer in dermatology]
Sad, angry, bar-bender
and dumbbell lifter,
out of work Strongman
unable anymore to wear
the leopard skin, but still
dreaming of the crowds
who'd once paid a nickel
to see iron twisted
the way boys would twist
their fathers' pipe cleaners
easy into light shapes birds,
alphabets, and even men
now photographed at last
but for what had brought him down,
he sat barely holding his pose and fury
as he remembered a field in Kansas
where once a hundred farmers
and their families watched
as metal yielded to him
as if he were as pure as wind,
the wind of their worst dreams,
the dreams that tore away barns
and arms, that hammered harvesters
down to their teeth.
And the farmers watched
and wished for such a hired hand,
for the silos he could build them,
corn cribs and sheds and new barns
big as their wishes.
In San Francisco a ship's captain
told him, "If you ever tire
of the circus, think about the sea.
You've got the strength for it."
In New Orleans a black man at the docks
told him, "You wouldn't have no trouble
with bales o' cotton, liftin' all day."
Children in every town loved him, wished
their fathers his strength and mustaches.
And he smiled at them and at their mothers,
for he well knew and had long known
the now near-forgotten looks
of women, where they stared
and what they wished; and the looks
of old men whose eyes teared
as they watched, as they
thought they remembered
how they too had been
and the things they thought
or wished they'd done.
But now with as much strength as ever
yet fired even from the cheapest fun houses,
with no way to hide his gyrating silver scales,
he blindly broods and thinks how he has been wronged
a hand that had shaken his? a woman? bad meat?
a barber's careless nick? but thinks how out of the lion
can come forth sweetness and of all the things he can smash,
claw, and pull down, of bone to be crushed.
His rage, inarticulate and abstract, oozes forth
from the crushed comb of his anger. It glistens
bright as the swirling scales of his chest
and rises like the things he plans to do.
"But thinks how out of the lion / can come forth sweetness" (Judges 14: 8-9, 14).
John Wood Endurance and Suffering: Narratives of Disease in the 19th Century (Edition Galerie Vevais, 2009) [Note: First edition is dated March 2007 but was published in October 2008.]