2 poems by Judith Skillman [Poetry]


Woke up with metal in my mouth

tried to peel copper off my tongue

wouldn’t come off

found tin in my ear no silver

grabbed a lesser-known walking stick

from the family of carbon-steel

limped into the kitchen where the birds had imploded

leaving feathers strewn on countertops



They gave me the pills for pain

and I took them for my memories,


knowing that this taking

carried warnings of dependence.


I became the drug of sleep

slowly, Hypnos a mask to cover


the amnesia. Afraid to wake

too much I watched birds slip


from trees, heard wind and water

narrow the spaces. Between proverbs


the sun came and went. At times

the moon sprouted like an eye


in the back yard–sinister,

unyielding, veiled by wisps of cloud.


They gave and I took for twenty years

what turned me into this churl


who lives too close to the ground.

Instead of fresh red blood my veins


fill with grubs and maggots,

those I recognize as kin


to twinned states of jealousy

and servitude. The little power


I wield comes from complaint,

my drum’s hollow as those chimneys


woodpeckers come to drum upon

in spring.



By Judith Skillman


  • Judith Skillman’s recent book is Kafka’s Shadow, Deerbrook Editions, 2017. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Cimarron Review, Shenandoah, Hawai’i Review, and J Journal, and in anthologies, including Nasty Women Poets, Lost Horse Press. She has been a writer in residence at the Centrum Foundation, and is the recipient of a 2017 Washington Trust GAP grant. Visit www.judithskillman.com, jkpaintings.com, https://www.facebook.com/judith.skillman

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