Apology Judith Skillman He sits across from her, again, and clears his throat. She knows this to be the start of what occurs every year, twice a year, sometimes more often, depending. He begins. “I need you to understand—” “Yes,” she says, “I understand. But we can talk only of the weather.” “Yes,” he says, “the weather. And yet there is—ahem, ahem ahem, and, and still, a country you should know of, what happened there—” “Dad, I know, you’ve told me this before. I don’t want to hear it again. I’ve told you that. Do you see the clouds?”—she points, outside the window, beyond the pane of glass, a front of cotton batting hanging in the sky, darkened, phthalo blue crowned with thunderheads. “It’s coming our way,” she says. Thunder appeals to him, she’s learned to cater to his needs. But on this point—his guilt— there will be no caving in, no enabling. “See?” He looks at her arm, which crosses off her face now, head averted, her left hand small though she’s grown up, that hand, the useless pinky, too tiny for the violin. He ahems again, agrees, “Yes, it’s bound to hit us. We should go before the rains come.” His voice bullish as the flattery of her red sweater.
Cold Spring Judith Skillman All mine, these ornamentals, the headache they carry to my forehead, where allergies spiral in sequence like DNA to beget a new varietal. Stunned by the beheading of another mimosa—thin-leafed, sleek, one I’d come to talk to upon returning home to the same-old sameness of seniority. Alone, no fellows, not a colleague left to tell physics jokes: What did the subatomic particle say to the duck? Quark, quark. And an impressive tour de force—black-and-white cartoon of buffalo hugging stick figure reads, all caps, I FOUND THE HUGS BISON. Today, as yesterday, the plum bears no fruit. The grown daughter doesn’t call. She’s learned I love the violin despite its scratchy shrieking. Finished with therapy, done with doctors—and no desire to change or save the scribbles on an old-fashioned pad, legal yellow, like the daffodils behind that felled tree. If someone were here: A photon checks into a hotel. The bellhop asks, “Can I help you get your luggage?” It replies, “I don’t have any. I’m traveling light.” When slipped disc nails itself to bone, in blasphemy I curse the thorny crown my daughter’s come to worship. I pull out another Thera-Cure, set it between shirt and undershirt. Those metal wind chimes go on ringing as if Jeezus Himself had landed in one of those private rockets made by the idiot who thinks Earth folk, their planet soiled beyond saving, can migrate to Mars. He stands before me as if in VR— If this T-shirt is blue, you’re going too fast! Harrumph. A laugh of sorts. Once I could play the clarinet. My embouchure’s gone rusty as His shirt, His stupid promise.
Judith Skillman lives in Newcastle, Washington. Her work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Threepenny Review, Zyzzyva, and many other journals. She is the recipient of awards from the Academy of American Poets and Artist Trust. Her new collection is A Landscaped Garden for the Addict (Shanti Arts Press, 2021). Judith teaches at Hugo House in Seattle.
Her book Oscar the Misanthropist was winner of the 2021 Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award.