Judith Skillman

After the arid days, blinds drawn against the sun,
a string of June weeks unlike thirty years since our son, 

born after Mt. Saint Helen’s erupted so many suns
ago, after violence done to those who trauma-bonded, 

and, too young to bear young, had them anyway. Sun
bakes grass seed strewn on gray clay. Our son’s 

gone to foreign cities with bento boxes, where sun
comes early to his minimalist room, his own 

place carved like a moat around him. Listen —
can you seize a scent the blessed carry like sun 

on their arms, their legs? You can no more win
this war against your own progeny than not sin. 

In these last few days and years left beneath the sun —
call me mother — I will not intervene on behalf of this son.



Judith Skillman

Begin with Queen Anne’s lace on steroids, with hogweed
grown for giant cows — the appetite for noxious, toxic weeds 

comes round to flower each five to seven years. Indeed
these red-purple leaves suggested rhubarb, not hogweed. 

It was the animals: deer, hares — never came near — stayed
away, rather skirted that place where shoots began from hogweed 

to branch, and each one wearing the insignia of another low-bred
disciple. To burn, scar, blind — who knew cow parsnip equaled hogweed, 

who could say? We watched the bloom pirouette
toward the sun. It followed, a hanger-on at dawn, a hogweed 

at dusk. Grew too high, taller than a husband. Husbanded
into a bag, cut in two, the sap smelled, told again of hogweed’s 

desire, that immigrant, no innocent jacaranda, rather hogweed,
and, in also, dialect, the cartwheel flower. Bearer of leather seeds’ 

legacy. You took up your machete — not angelica, hogweed,
not benign, no longer a curiosity to stand beside. Hogweed.


JUDITH SKILLMAN’s how to is Broken Lines — The Art & Craft of Poetry, from Lummox Press. Poems have appeared in PoetryTar River Poetry, FIELD, Seneca Review, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Pontoon, and other journals and anthologies. Skillman is the recipient of an Eric Mathieu King Fund Award from the Academy of American Poets for Storm, Blue Begonia Press. She has taught at City University, Richard Hugo House, and elsewhere. Angles of Separation, her new book, is available from Glass Lyre Press. Visit her on the web.