Thursday, April 16, 2015

Two Poems by Judith Skillman

Quail Trail

A highway of arrows, pointed diamonds left in the snow by birds who never take to the sky.  A sensible direction, yet they are invisible and have left the fatigue of injury, of an accident on ice.  Mascots for the family, the domestic mis on scene.  In spring you became one of them--a woman lying down, warm-needled grounds belonging to human and bird alike.  They appealed because they moved as one, flocking for grubs, and for the worm from which the color cinnabar came.  As if these prints were bread crumbs you'll follow them to the edge of the earth, believe in flatland, the violin, the book with its soft covers to open and read.  Nothing backlit, no beeps nor virtual reality, only the trill--sharp beaks pecking.

The North Stream

A little brook singing to itself
as only water can, music
of descent from cold, snowmelt
lacerated by dawn, the telling
of nothing again and over,
that refrain soft in the body,
that tapestry palpable
as a drawer that sticks.

A coming to, as from sleep
or grief, pain lessening enough
to run a little secret past the greats
who intimidate.  If it's only water
so much the better.

Goats beard flocking the uncles
and aunts, the fancy of that--
she pauses, puts the instrument
down on the bed, wipes sweat
from her neck, thinks of Hemingway
how he killed himself at sixty,
looks over the score--aha,
an entrance just there, after
the first violinist's impeccable solo.

A little fountain spurting.
Rules broken, contingencies not let
matter, the forever bird
tuning up.  A little squeak
as the conveyance continues,
its mistakes ignored, its meanderings
beholden to principle:  the audience
remembers the beginning and end,
these deep waters pouring for her
green-blue then, grief-blue now.

A little creek by which she numbs
her lips with ices, says, if only
to those eucalyptus trees that stumped
her with the scribbly sap and curls
of bark, yes, I will practice being
the music, yes, I will stay inside
the sheets, sleep my way back
into a small dream about very much.

Judith Skillman's new book is Angles of Separation, Glass Lyre Press 2014.  Her work has appeared in Tampa Review, Cimarron Review, Tar River Poetry, Prairie Schooner, FIELD, Seneca Review, The Iowa Review, Southern Review, Poetry, New Poets of the American West, and other journals and anthologies.  Skillman is the recipient of grants from the Academy of American Poets, Washington State Arts Commission, and King County Arts Commission.  She has taught at City University, Richard Hugo House, Yellow Wood Academy, and elsewhere.  Visit

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