All by degrees
Wane, in waning
feel the age, discs
the upright man
pays his price—too
high. Standing be-
neath phthalo sky
becomes, for woman
who has borne child-
of grief and mad-
ness, loss of mo-
able to run
the mile, to cool
off in a creek.
they called it, as,
like fish let loose
we lay on rocks,
felt pleasure’s hand
in water rocking
back and forth all
day long and days
were long, as nights
sleep, the nightmares.
The man and wo-
man walk for hours,
veins showing through
(as the hostess
said at her son’s
wedding, you’ll want
eating rich foods,
a woman tries
to wear that ring
en, elved away
from those who wor-
shipped her once as
from afar, a
instead of this
frail shell of nerves.
The woman who stepped into my spine
wasn’t folded in, like raisins into cake batter.
She didn’t know my name or address,
nor did she haunt my dreams
like the Directress at a French chateau, or
have a vendetta. The trunk of the weeping fig
became six-fold in eight years. She grew simply
by entering the hallway. Now she is fixed.
She doesn’t twist for me, nor does she speak
though I dialogue all day and clean a house
for her to live in. I take a moth-shaped dust devil
from a painting, pick up tiny gnats
used to flying to saucers in the middle of a century
long past. All I do is meant to make her
lithe and slender. Cleaning coffee rings
from a wooden shelf, tackling my issues in rooms
with well-intentioned therapists. She remains
unimpressed by words, emotions, and affirmations.
She took up residence as myopia
comes to a pupil by degrees. I never felt
a thing until that metal wheelchair, carried from the car
by my husband, proffered with sarcastic grace.
Judith Skillman’s new book is House of Burnt Offerings, Pleasure Boat Studio. Her poems have appeared in Tampa Review, Prairie Schooner, FIELD, The Iowa Review, Poetry, The Southern Review, Midwest Quarterly Review, 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, The Centrum Foundation, and other organizations. She taught in the field of humanities for twenty-five years, and has collaboratively translated poems from Italian, Portuguese, and French.