Pityriasis Rosea

Plumly, Stanley

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Aug-09-2001


What can the poet discover in the rash of pityriasis rosea? "We say the blood rose, meaning it came to the surface / like a bruise . . . " He plays with several meanings, considering the possibilities of the size and shape of the pityriasis lesions; "the sickle, the scythe in the blood," for example, or "the ash after sex," or "the raw rose on the back of my hand." [28 lines]


This poem reports the many painful and fanciful things "we say" about the rash. We never say that the rash is simply a rash, or an ordinary virus causes the condition. Rather, we say "this too is the blood burning clean" and "only the wren flower" will heal the wound. The poem is a bravado love affair with language, a rash of words for their own sake, for their beauty and shapeliness.

The poem originally appeared in a collection called Poets Respond to AIDS. Thus, although pityriasis rosea is a common and benign condition, Plumly may be commenting here on a more virulent form of the rash that occurs in people with AIDS.

Primary Source

Boy on the Step



Place Published

New York