Thursday, October 2, 2014

Two Poems by Judith Skillman

Thinking of Limes in the North

The man's changed again, suddenly, fuse
lit by a scent come into a leaf
so succulent he must've wanted
to eat it whole, and go from there
into the center of the bush, pulling
underripe fruit with his teeth

Hearing the sound a lime makes
when it comes off its sprocket
above a canyon marked by interstates
crossing and recrossing what was once
the floor of a great ocean.

Ever since she saw the number of green citrus
held like tennis balls, bound to thick stems
in a yard so foreign it might as well
have been the moon, she can't abide
her marriage.

She would prefer to bake in the oven
of sun, to step on a rattlesnake,
a scorpion--treading the path toward
the hills that surround their arena.

There a million sadness's plague
the landscape, and firs blossom upward
in flames for nothing more than
a chaste wind, an errant match head,
the forked tongue of lightning.

Kafka's Tuberculosis

It's only a bit of blood
on a handkerchief.
No need to go off
(the heavy black boots)
toward that island where the swans
sun themselves in winter light.
Nor to keep a little quiet
for the coughing--fits
come and go, the wind
rises around Gregor's room,
and he, no doubt
will not come forth.  Why
exit this new skin
worn so close to the body
it has no memory of itself?
Why venture down fretful avenues
where one's privacy--
even that--becomes
the intruder?  It's only a bit
of bright red, the swans
sit in silence, all is well
in the great city
within the Fatherland.
Pater sleeps in his chair,
the swans skim and preen,
whether a stone falls to the bottom
or a coin is tossed
for luck it's as my absent mother
sang to herself
while waiting for borscht
to cool:  que sera sera.

Judith Skillman is the author of fourteen collections of poetry.  She holds an MA in English Literature from the University of Maryland.  Her poems and collaborative translations have appeared in Poetry, FIELD, Seneca Review, The Iowa Review, Southern Review, BEACONS, Ezra, and other journals and anthologies.  Skillman is the recipient of an Eric Mathieu Kind Fund Award from the Academy of American Poets for Storm, Blue Begonia Press.  She has taught at City University, University of Phoenix, Richard Hugo House, and elsewhere.  Angles of Separation, her new book, is available from Glass Lyre Press: or visit

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