Thursday, June 28, 2018

Three Poems from Judith Skillman

Can't Return

Firs rise in green skirts
before the window.
Can't go back, the wind
says in its all too human moan.

I feel the degenerate within
take more of what it owns--
this flesh house
where all winter I sheltered.

Can't return the little birds
skewered and gnashed,
nor the sun
burning away wisps of fog.

How green the green
on February grasses,
how bright the whites
of branches tipped with sun.

The shadow grew like a wing.
Can't return the sturdy log
of a toddler I swaddled,
its baby's breath dried to tinder.


The old scar remembers its sear,
hot poker there inside prodding
an organ.  The afflictions of the hip
lie stored away, a laundry list
so detailed all it takes is one wrong move.

She remembers being paralyzed,
feeling nothing from the waist
down.  Recalls the siren's wail
as they drove with the two-year old
sitting up--crying and alive.

And then the waiting.
An interminable number of years
since then, the word scoliosis
comes into her back, takes its place
alongside four bulging discs.


Hooded bird, come in,
convalesce, hold conversation
with the unknown speaker.
Me, me, me, chirps the sparrow
through an open window.

On railings other would-be wishers
of gladness gather.
Crow, you come too,
dominate with shadow
the tabula rasa of sickness.

Who gets sick?
The sick get sick.
Cloud, rag, turpentine,
chloroform, influenza--
a table set with a vase of fruit.

Orator, forehead of a Latin speaker
placed upside down--
lift the cloak of illness,
its spell begun in a home
called pig sty.

Judith Skillman's recent book is Kafka's Shadow, Deerbrook Editions, 2017.  She is the recipient of an Erick Mathieu King Fund Award from the Academy of American Poets, an Artist Trust GAP grant.  Her work has appeared in Shenandoah, Cimarron Review, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, and other journals.  Visit,

No comments:

Post a Comment