“Marsh Violets” By Judith Skillman

You want them to go on
blooming in the rain, the cold sleet
sheeting down from whatever clouds
pass overhead, bringing news of dark omens.

You wish for Spring when you see
filigree petals springing from moss
below the oak, its doubled trunk
that became a raccoon latrine last winter.

Though they open like doilies
the flower isn’t so fragile, the stem
hard to punch through with thumb
and index finger.  Picking them

makes you want to think it’s Spring–
some potion like a salve or balm
hovers in the air. The weather still
changeable, the sun stolen from the zenith

by storm. As if Juno’s chariot were unsteady,
his reins held in the hands of a child god
who thought he was more immortal
than a peacock. You got what you prayed for.

Yes, punishment came with the granting
of the prayer-wish. You begin to think green
more indecent than purple. That the erotic
dreams are less credible than these flowers.

Which is to say, the wind screams
above itself about masochism, sadism,
and all the shades between.
You knew a perpetual winter

came with your last bleed. That sterility
would equal a certain dryness in the humors.
Perhaps the keratinous body you inhabit
now is your soul—that word so precious

in youth—whatever it is that still seethes
with life’s precocious mysteries. Like blue-
eyed girls who behave miserably
at bedtime, and these clumps

self-seeding the circle around the base
of the raccoon latrine. Coldly unaware
as the stream of raccoons who lumber
across violets, one at a time all night long.


Judith Skillman’s most recent book is Kafka’s Shadow, Deerbrook Editions. 
Her poems have appeared in FIELD, Cimarron Review, Shenandoah, The Iowa Review, and in anthologies including Nasty Women Poets, Lost Horse Press. She has been a writer in residence at the Centrum Foundation, and is the recipient of a 2017 Washington Trust GAP grant. Visit www.judithskillman.com

 

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