Judith Skillman

Yahrzeit

If a breeze breaks the end of August, ringing chimes,
if only a breeze would come from the ocean to ring these chimes

long silent, the air a furnace. Ninety-five degrees, no chimes,
asphalt melted back to tar. Birdbath dry, no ringing chimes

to tell of wind, its soothing balm, and clouds in these times
all gone. Left in their place an acrid sky. The red sun climbs

one rung at a time down from that place where currents could ring chimes.
This rubber orb casts no shadows. Who knows why the chimes

fall silent? Lassitude descends, and the pall. We know about pearls
sized for stone lionsı mouths, those that guard the rich, glass chimes

hanging from their many-storied balconies. Where no chimes ring
the dead come back to feast on the livingıs memories. Their limbs‹

how strong once‹and now how weak. Ineffectual bells chime
in ceremony when we meet to honor Father, he who rang

the Chinese bell to summon Mother to his bedside. There sheıd chime
in to remind him to swallow the Ensure, which he declined.




Windbreak

Poplars planted in a field south of Paris‹windbreak
for storms‹shelter belts to curb gale force winds.

Poplars fretted by birds, soft-wooded and slender, wind
their way through Impressionists, follow the Fauvistsı break.

Planted in columns, catkin-bearing, fast-growing, their spires wind
through landscapes I treasure more than summer, windbreaks

against the age when, removed from youthıs willowing, wound
down like a clock, oneıs wings are clipped, and travelıs broken

by routine. The same rounds through the same house, no wind
come to play my hair or rub my skin clean of pretense. Windbreaksı

thin pointed shapes placed so as to bleed a sky of its wind.
Nexus of branches inked against sunsets and ice skates, winding

down for hot chocolate around the bonfire. Then, bent to wintry winds,
my age an ache, a remembrance of things past, a Proustian windbreak.

 

 

Judith Skillman’s recent book is Kafka’s Shadow, Deerbrook Editions. Her work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Shenandoah, Zyzzyva, FIELD, and elsewhere. Awards include an Eric Mathieu King Fund grant from the Academy of American Poets. She is a faculty member at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, Washington. Visit www.judithskillman.com <http://www.judithskillman.com>