You who are my wind, the hole in the fabric of an afternoon, the winding place where dresses made from calico whisper on hangers— you who compose morning with spidery windows prism-cast, with lengths of webbing and incarcerated droplets . . . * There, the scattered choir of chimes, crows calling breezeways full of what’s gone, you do not have words for this brand of quiet. Remember two things: I need not know your name, it is too late to ask for that. * When I was empty, the quail ran, their white crests bobbing, their alarm contagious. * This is your dress kept in a chest in the attic with the others. All antiques speak of moldered houses, blue willows and sepia. Formica yellowed by decades, wood scarred and covered with what the old maids made as they rocked and talked: off-white doilies. * Were lamps upturned in the house where these things happened? * You whose legs are white, unmarked by weather— I’ll mother you a second time. * I learned a long time ago once your body goes loose the tantrum passes. * Once, coming around the corner, we knocked into one another. Your blue eyes told of the Ukraine, yet you carried seeds from so many countries. * Crying from that fall, I felt your shoulders, too strong for such a little girl. * That night I saw the wing outstretched, silvered with summer’s long twilight sifting through blankets pinned to windows to keep you asleep. * You still don’t recognize how much I carry, you who are my child, my child’s child, my own abandoned self and selfishness.
Judith Skillman’s thirteenth collection, The Phoenix: New and Selected Poems 2006 – 2012 is forthcoming from Dream Horse Press. She’s the recipient of awards from The Academy of American Poets, The King County Arts Commission, and the Washington State Arts Commission. Her poems and translations have appeared in Poetry, Poetry Northwest, FIELD, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Currently Skillman teaches at Yellow Wood Academy, Mercer Island, Washington. Visit judithskillman.com