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Judith Skillman

THE RUSTLING

By Judith Skillman

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 SkillmanJudith 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 PoetryPoetry NorthwestFIELDThe Iowa ReviewPrairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Currently Skillman teaches at Yellow Wood Academy, Mercer Island, Washington. Visit judithskillman.com

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