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Judith Skillman

Rehearsing the Past

The slightly sweet aftermath
of some great finale—
its bitter moments, its betrayals.

Did it happen when they sprayed for sugar ants?
Put gabled vents in the attic?
Or one day when you woke submerged,

half in, half out of the bed.
Once sleep gave succor, stars wheeling zodiacal
at the zenith.  Is it the chicken swooning

in the dirt, feathers splayed? The bale of cedar
dropped near the acreage?
You wander from list to list,
wanting to remove every vestige
of this remnant, yet it moves into you,
the farcical taste of a perfect day,

the deep night no lover dared to enter.
Even the topmost portion of dreams
skimmed from surface tension.

Yet your arms and legs still move
above weathered stones,
and on your feet, the water-bird’s dexterous toes.

Judith Skillman’s new collections are Broken Lines—The Art & Craft of Poetry, Lummox Press, 2013, and The Phoenix—New and Selected Poems 2007 – 2013, Dream Horse Press. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, FIELD, Midwest Quarterly Review, The Iowa Review, The Southern Review, A Cadence of Hooves, and other journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of grants from the Academy of American Poets, the Washington State Arts Commission, the Centrum Foundation, and the King County Arts Commission. Visit