Friday 8 April 2022

Five Poems by Askold Skalsky




A poverty-rich human yet non-human thing,

on its way to a great drain, an authentic pigswill

in the brain and onset-prone, like a biography

of forgotten certainties, expropriate and


phantomed in its infant songs and tears—

an arch under a familiar sky, its talon tearing

threads out of the faculties, the four horsemen

of non-apocalyptic dailyness in their mediated


rags and blankets wrapped around a shivering,

shrivelled bearer of identity. Don’t you know

demise is near? Like an inbred poodle on a re-

ifying leash, running through the killing fields


of late modernity, a dying corpse yet struggling

to be free. Long may it live in the dump and piddle

of its narratives—a pasty imbricate waiting to be

unvoked in the daily matrix of our agonies.


Let the great unthreading come, the bricoleur

of plasticized nonentity—deity of a new deintegrated

sooth—and take this spry reality in lower case

into the slickened regions of untruth, the bloody,  


phlegm-besotted underside of skin and sheath,

clinging to the sticky carcass of the separate eye. 



The Tiger Enters the RAGGED forests of mid-century


It was the year of the tiger, the mid-century riding

on its beast, the fighting animal, now subject to resignation

and regret, the death of the old order’s world-disordered

realm, a dizzying liminality of unfamiliar space between


the ordinary ceremonies of experience. And those

aborning in the dark-striped verticals of solitary predators

and emptiness became inflamed with brightest orange fur

and glowing undersides—shapeshifters in ungulate lands,


risking their carefree, easily insulted lives. You must ask

forgiveness after killing them, some said, speak respectfully

with covered head, and shut all shining embers out of sight

(the tiger’s yellow irises are that).  A boundary dweller


of the night and a mage’s familiar he, where threshold

forces stand confronted by secreted light, a charismatic

mega-faun of ancient immortality, no less, on its way

to the barnyard of elemental dread and ordinariness.



School Days in the Holly City


Not once did I notice, even beyond the gravel

pits near the town limits, any waxy shrubs

with short stubby branches and  dark-red drupes.

Still, someone had named the streets High and Main

and  made them intersect in an outburst of poetic

inspiration. Winters brought thin powders

of pockmarked snow, not quite covering

the swamps around the Morais River. I wish

I had written my first poem in Miss Ruhlander's

class instead of showing her the crayon drawing

of Bavarian hills, which prompted unpleasant

associations. I wish I had never felt Lynn's

perilous hips on the back-seat exploits

of our  Friday dates.  (She likes you, someone 

told  me, in sharp intakes of excited breath.) 

And I wish the top floor of Romanik's tailor shop

with its three cramped rooms had a sloped roof 

like other houses—our class president would  have

praised it then,  who lived in downtown-glory

in a corner mansion that vanished one October

day,  leaving only some stone pillars in the  yard. 

Next year I shall mark my  high-school class’s

absolute demise by not attending  the five-

year round  of dark-red memories, still

persisting with  its bash of  green perversity.



at a poetry Reading


The chairs around us almost

touch like grasses arched by

teasing winds, the widening

plains ready for the craft of sky

turned inside out like a doughnut,

infinite knot with no undoing,

where shadows like us come

to pause for happy confusions,

works of someone else’s faith

that we drain, adjusting the thirst

in our throats, voiceless.

Show us what you can do,

we seem to say, though you are

giants bound by minikins, words

telling another tease, a notion here,

a semi-insight there, some detail

flushed out of its dense corridor

for us to wander in, then quicken

before others come, brushing

the walls and scraping their small feet

through the remarkable event.

I turn to you, being so close

and seeing our stumbling

moment’s needle touch

on the frail skin we’ve brought

each other more than any rose

turning its ruby petals to the light.



antecedENT truths


If she had not left that weekend,

if I had kept my furies to myself,

then we would still be together


in our swamp of stagnant water

and brown mist, our cellar of in-

dicative conditionals over which


the skiffs of familiarity floated

like specters rowing with their

silent oars.

Originally from Ukraine, Askold Skalsky is a retired college professor currently living in Frederick, Maryland. His poems have appeared in over 300 magazines and online journals in the USA as well as in literary publications in Europe, Canada, Australia, and India. His first collection, The Ponies of Chuang Tzu, was published in 2011 by Horizon Tracts in New York City. He is currently at work on a cycle of poems based on Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. A book of poetry, Shapeless Works of Partial Contemplation, will be published by Ephemeral Arts in December 2022.

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