On Nook Trail

We climb up burnished roots, a staircase
through the canopy of trees staircased.

As we rise higher we see branches erased,
watch the sun plait dust motes in a fir staircase.

Are there angels haloed in sweat, or does ease
make their journey lighter than ours, stairs

and steps to climb, fighting against debris
of age, arthritic back and hip. This staircase,

vertebrae in lumbar spine, winds and bulges.
How detach from pain¹s infinite staircase.

Rimbaud¹s leg, amputated, his useless crutches—
those he collapsed upon, a basket case.

A wooden sign shows where the staircase
ends or does not end as ever in a staircase.

O hierarchy of identity, ego and id—encase
my journey: a cave hidden in a staircase.

And if I weep for surcease of this staircase,
sister me, pull me up by my jealousy, staircase.


Talus Caves

We walk uphill along a path polished by others to see rock debris‹
moss-covered boulders sloped in light and shadow, huge rocks, debris.

Once a man fell from a slick boulder in autumn, head concussed by debris.
He was found by my husband and daughter in dangerous rock debris.

I walk behind you, unsure whether I will arrive to see rock debris,
the sights that engaged our youth, sleuthing out caves of scrambled rock

Each step up this root-thick trail works parts of the body: calf, thigh,
its talus cushioned by cartilage and connected by ligaments that rock.

As yet each of us remains apart, panting to achieve a summit of rock debris.
No flag to plant, no thin air. Surround us with vistas: pre-rock debris.

Judith Skillman¹s recent book is House of Burnt Offerings, Pleasure Boat
Studio. Her work has appeared in Shenandoah, Poetry, Zyzzyva, FIELD, and
elsewhere. Awards include an Eric Mathieu King Fund grant from the Academy
of American Poets. Skillman has done collaborative translations from French,
Portuguese, and Macedonian. Visit www.judithskillman.com