Let me see these strings as they are,
planted on bark. Arrows growing upward
to kill the living crown. Let me become
more inward, listening to a mood
and naming it for a color. Allow the snake
its grass and bush, its cover, its camouflage.
What a yellow, crooked path into these woods.
The body twists away, supposes it knows
its own fingers. The leaf blower holds a wand,
annihilates all that has fallen fecund,
to the ground. Let me see these strings
as catgut wound to a maple trunk, bound
to play the song of another, shorter season.
Comes fast in March.
As if Vuillard had used
Wiggly lines and squiggles
Fill in the sky
Which was white all day,
And carries the west
As if direction was a value,
A darker shade
To travel in, the trees
Burnt cold, a shiver
Of new leafing in.
It falls like a flimsy blanket
You can see through,
Leaves a glazed look
On those you once knew.
The pansies won't open.
Little fists of color
Remain closed in plots
Beside the front door.
It comes on so you know
He, Vullard, was a wild
Beast when he painted
The tall vase in colors
Prussian and Alizarin,
With that wallpaper
Bizarre enough to scare
When he painted Elles Belles,
The path shone white
Under a sky so mysterious
He didn't bring it down
Far enough to so much
As touch the weeping willow,
The shrub with its raw umber
Filigree, the white puddles
A misty sun smudged shut.
When Shall I Be Like the Swallow?
Instead this ground-hugging countenance,
pocket of sun trapped close to grass, where I,
like the snake, daily make my way through
exigencies of the body's ossification.
Bone spurs, Hallus Rigidus, varied
and sundry conditions de rigueur
incurred by the flesh I have no choice
but to wear. How rise from depression when,
in strictness, pain directs my hours? How
in dormant surfaces unoiled? How lift,
wear the adornment of a long, forked tail?
How gain loft to capture all that was lost
before I knew the story of my age.
Judith Skillman's new book is House of Burnt Offerings, Pleasure Boat Studio, 2015. Her work has appeared in Cimarron Review, J Journal, Seneca Review, Southern Review, Tampa Review, Prairie Schooner, FIELD, The Iowa Review, Poetry, and many other journals and anthologies. Her awards include an Eric Mathieu King Fund grant from the Academy of American Poets. Currently she works on manuscript review: www.judithskillman.com