The 2River View 27.4 (Summer 2023)

Judith Skillman


            Yiddish: a long drawn-out illness

Where are the days when I rose as a child
to greet the sun? This long winter carries
silence and I an only child in the house.

Outside the grass, strewn with dirt
from moles my husband poisons underground.
If I knit words will the splendid dead

approve? Instead of spankings I’ll be given
cinnamon breads and streusels?
Voyages abroad, foreign cities

with cobblestones, bougainvillea?
In shallow dreams I walk all afternoon
to arrive at evening.

Two fat pillows flattened by the weight
of my head, wind chimes quiet. Commoners—
sparrows, wrens, and robins

come to drink from the birdbath. Where are
those years when I rode a speckled mare
into the fiery kiln of sunset?


You are lead-footed
like my father,
who stamped stairs
with prints
of mud.

I greet you
like the mole
who undoes our yard,
the owl who asks
in a tree.

I meet
your tormented ascent
to fame
as if it held
my own demise.

Though slow to change,
alder trees rust
at the edge
of the acre.
Through your telescope

this planet’s stunning.
Its ring a sliver,
a chink in the armor
of space.

like the hat
you wore when we met,
Aussie cowboy,
and I
was taken in.

Judith Skillman has poems in Commonweal, Threepenny Review, Zyzzyva, and elsewhere. Oscar the Misanthropist won the 2021 Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award. Her new collection is Subterranean Address, New & Selected Poems (Deerbrook Editions 2023). (website)

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