Flakes of crusty blood covered her cuticles, and hid under her nails. She was often covered in blood. The metallic smell of iron hung around her forcing attention to her bloodied skin, speckled clothing, and coppery hair. Hair which looked soft and free, fell around her face like a soft halo. It lived like vines gently tangled into itself, growing outward while strengthening its core. Occasionally marred by dark, clumpy strands which would eventually turn to flakes, freeing the hair from the bondage but not the stain.

She didn’t mind. She wore her blood the same way artists wore smugs of oil pastels or streaks of paint, colored pencils or inking pens jammed through their hair or tucked behind their ear. If she was only walking down the street or a few persons ahead in line, she would be a beautiful creature with careful movements and a warming smile. Her green eyes would radiate with the flakes of orange-hazel scattered through them. Closer though and the smell would sting and caress nearby nose hairs. She would still be alluring.

For months various scarves would be hang around her neck. Her hands silently weaving the tattered ends. What would at one point have been an instyle and playful tasselled bottom would have become a matted mess. The ends braided and unbraided; twisted, tied, and undone. While everything else about her was deliberate and seemingly coordinated, her hands moved through her scarves the way age-spotted hands of older women moved their needles through skeins of various fabrics.

Cognizant of the new, the reopened, and the healing stretches of peeled cuticles; the slight dents and flakes of fresh lip; and the little flecks, drips, and drops in various shades of red and brown strewn across new and old locations she would appear to have a picking problem. But the only things her hands would ever been seen involved in were her scarves. A person watching her, though, truly watching her – watching her and becoming a part of her would begin to see it. The moments of stillness, left without a scarf, without an audience. She, mindlessly watching a show as her hands worked on themselves. A small raised piece of skin. Her nails pinching it, rubbing it, pushing and pulling it to stand taller. Slowly but continuously working it, until she can peel it back. Peel it back and down, in a long, smooth strip. Her beautiful smile morphed into a wince as it hurts a little. Her lower lip tucked under her two front top teeth, pushed between them and her bottom teeth, being pulled and worked in its own way. An atom of lip, a fleck, a piece, a small flat rectangular chunk. Little droplets of bright red prickingly up and across her skin. Some form little pools, while others swim across. A cloud of hair floats in front of her face, blocking her view of a show she’s seen a million times. A hand delicately sweeping it back behind her ear, a streak of red mingles amongst the coppery strands.

Small pieces of a bright young woman left haphazardly around. In some ways waiting to be collected. To be put back. How careless she was to leave parts of herself on the floor, pushed into the hem of her sweatpants, in the cuffs of her jeans, the pockets of her jacket. Wherever she was at home, in whatever outfit she had on, the pieces of herself she was throwing away left clinging to wherever she left them. Discarded without thought.

A person close enough to observe the little bits might collect them. Recreating, whether or not they meant to, a smaller replica of a blurred out her. It was a mini, Copper. Fitting in name and color pallette to the large version slowly ripping herself apart. As much as she couldn’t stop, couldn’t be bothered by the stains of her blood, a person that close to her – a person continuously working to put her back together bit by bloodied bit. A person like that would be no more able to stop than she would. In the end, they would reach a inpass. One where neither would be able to understand their own positions let alone their opponents.

Eventually, that person would walk away from all of it. From the beauty, from the blood. They would have to. Eventually, Copper would pick apart the mini version of herself until she was scattered in pieces with nothing left but old scabs and new skin to pick off of herself. Eventually, the little piece of mini Copper, the one any person would have to take with them would disintegrate to dust taking with it the memory of her crusty blood covered cuticles, the metallic smell of iron hung around her, her speckled clothing and coppery hair.

A practice reading of “Copper Flakes” by Elizabeth Scozzari

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