Today's poems are by Judith Skillman


By its milky light the sun left to grow
thin, as it had before. Afternoon. Doors
slammed shut in anger—the gate, the hedgerow
planted to take the edge off being poor.

Certain birds wintered over. They flocked,
winter behavior—across the greenway
pond heavy with rain. Turning, smocked
in holiday colors, we had our say.

Rage played out like a chess game, overtures
went unanswered. The creek swelled, slippage
took the place of safety. There was no cure.

Nests blossomed in deciduous trees.
For discourse, for conversation: pillage.
We were still married. Our marriage grew poor.

The Arbor

Behind the makeshift observatory,
cement slab my father laid and leveled,
the trellis stands
threaded with white flowers.

Their scent is old and stale
as any story, unique as the stars
and nebulae I learned
as a child.

I put down my books
and open the gate. There was a girl
who poured herself into jeans
and other selves.

I lift the heavy latch
and a swatch of chain link swings open.
How can I tell time?
After school, in the aftermath

of gossip, exposure, and lies.
In a few months, walking barefoot
in the yard, I'll step on a wasp.
Its stinger will lodge under my toe.

No ice can take away
the memory of a narrow body
or the danger that comes with girlhood.
Whistles, catcalls, the silk rosebud

impressed on a nightgown
and lace. What becomes of fatigue
after it's been mined?
A single blossom left,

fakery, the illusion of text
knotted like an alphabet
over other texts. Here is the blunt
wood, and words.

The Espalier

Winter. The moon like
Eve's white apple
aches to be emptied.
The creek fills and rushes
onward towards fruition.

There was a jack rabbit
in the yard, there were deer
eating slender shoots.
Now, in the Master gardens,
pumpkins have surrendered

to the cold. Gourds pose
for our pleasure—
some uglier than the age.
Winter. The moon,
like Eve's white apple,

contains the same seeds Persephone
will eat to fissure the earth.
Eurydice will go blind.
All these myths softened by fog.
No one remembers

how the apple let its limbs
be trained against wooden posts—
a crucifix of sorts.
Why it grew more tender
when the moon was full.

Copyright © 2004 Judith Skillman All rights reserved
from Latticework
David Robert Books
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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