AFTERIMAGES

Judith Skillman

Of the sun, one winter afternoon — 
the sun close to setting, one afternoon 

after staring into a star too soon
and long before it disappeared: noon 

the time when drought takes one
by surprise. And lessons, afternoons 

with father, his solar physics — don’t
stare or you’ll go blind, eclipsed sun, 

half sun, quarter sun, sun through pin-
hole camera, after all he was the sun 

and the moon together — a web spun
of such sheerness, his disappearance. 

Afterimages spring green and red, suns
float against closed eyes and afternoons. 

From him — the Pater — must come afternoon.
What is it to be awake, else to mourn the One?

 

NIGHTSHADE GHAZAL

Judith Skillman

Mother can no longer eat from the family of nightshades —
peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, all verboten, nightshades 

make arthritis worse, stiffness cumbersome. In Hades
her girls lost half the year, down there, with the shades. 

Call her Demeter. Still, mother can no more imbibe
of sunberry than drink a potion from foxglove, nightshade 

the color of indigo, ink dripping into her heart. Eradicate
her sadness, her endless griefs, still she refuses nightshades 

when the waiter comes in his stiff whites to take her order.
Explaining, as if it were a story, how it started. Nightshades — 

once her favorite vegetables, completely gone, the diet
works for her — all is well in the garden of Eden, nightshades 

aside. Mother me or what I will become in just two decades.
My own version of mother: her stories, her family, nightshade.

 

SWEET RAIN

Judith Skillman

Tasted, smelled, rising from hot asphalt, sweet rain
in the street where a man works on his camper in the rain. 

Like desire, felt less often now we are old, the joint pain
and fatigue competing with that other. Sweet rain 

rising, lifting the dampened piano that hides its teeth
beneath a lid. Sweet rain, bird song, all the rain-wet 

exigencies a house brings to bear. Valence, curtain,
scrubbed porcelain. Perhaps a mouse-brown rain, 

pummeling the decking. Or a violet sky shines behind
cloud cover, dense with time. Where shall I go, rain, 

how can I recall my only name? The man’s sweat
pays for no one’s poverty. Often I feel jealous, sweet rain, 

of brother and sister — gone to Sweden, or France.
That’s the end of the story that began with a father’s rain-sweet 

face, poor past, Holocaust. Let the locusts swarm, sweet rain
brings them down out of the dogwood, they die by sweet rain.