Friday 30 April 2021

Four Poems by Judith Skillman



            in memory, Beth Bentley, October 7, 1921 – February 11, 2021


Cleopatra of

Padelford, mentor

whose quiet laughter

held us all in thrall.

Didn’t a shortish

priest flirt with her

on a bus in Rome?

Did she not lunch on

the Brontë sisters,

consider Hazel

Hall’s work in the fine

finesse of critique?

Where does the moon go

in daytime? And she

whose autumn leaves we

turned in our fingers

might disdain this

poem written only

to afford a hat,

a spell, a peach. Now

let us take up again

these hidden articles.

Let’s find no rule to

forbid the dream of

what it is we’re

meant to do, even

in the face of life

more certain than death’s

sentence. Whether she’d

like the metaphor

remains suspect. We

recall her dark eyed

invitation to

re-enter the world

of the packet boat 

in a dirge of birds

stunned by sunlight.





I came to the dream

of blue orange juice,

the floor with no urinals.

I came to

on a single Ambien,

walked across the yard

in a strappy chemise,

clotted grasses

wet on bare feet.

A tightrope of that

dead mime’s

one night stands

stretched like a rat’s tail.

Made my way

through the maze

of an English garden,

found the garage door

unlocked, climbed

the single staircase

to the kitchen

thinking to make coffee.


October’s Mole


At it again, undoing the earth,

throwing cakes of dirt

up into light and rain,

shovelling through Hades.


Swimming the crawl stroke,

tunnelling for the sake

of mystery into avenues

fragrant with worm-flesh


and feathered roots.

Infiltrating the myths,

ragged-toothed as an old woman

I called grandmother,


her hair half gone,

her voice a whisper.

At it like an intimate,

How masculine,


this rodent, no shovel,

no gloves, naked

except for the grey fur.

In no hurry to remedy


wrongs, instead moving

forward, carving out

territory for the sake

of a secret wish. 



The Quotidian


The only news the news.

Listen to the chimes tell

their famous secrets.

I promise to be your vault

if you tell me, your arm

at an angle, how a bone heals

stronger than its break.

When dinner’s over,

our hunger sated

by faux bourbon sauce

over chicken

and broccoli noodled

with ricotta and garlic,

outside in the dark

some thing will walk beneath

an umbrella—flashlight, dog,

no person—dog and light

circling one another

like bicycle pedals.

Judith Skillman is a resident of Newcastle, Washington and a dual citizen of US and Canada. Her work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Poetry, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, Zyzzyva, and other journals. She is the recipient of awards from Academy of American Poets and Artist Trust. Her collection A Landscaped Garden for the Addict is forthcoming from Shanti Arts. Visit




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