Three Poems by Ed Skoog
in its tray low on the table lace curtains shifting like a wraith mornings before christmas morning older brothers coming home in rows with bags to their original rooms and me the baby settling back in place even at forty-eight when they came back the last time so many flat things at the end gurney slab moods and tones the horizon out back under the horse barn the line widened scratched open by generations of red foxes parting limestone to their generative underworld i asked my son to go tell the foxes the old man was gone and there were no promises that their tenancy would hold safe when the next owners moved in that what to make of their lives was now up to them
The Eleutherian Mysteries
/ all i see of the old mysteries is their important-looking award coins that mattered at the time may my stuff when i’m ancestral be explained poorly seem interesting and what i wanted stubborn beyond desire the vivid sensual animated driven once past now can’t want anything only give these undisciplined boxes / night 57 and when the pepper balls started getting shot at us and without a gas mask or even any extra water and with the lockdown nobody to hear and each cloud of tear gas sent me involuntary to the edge and harrison thanks for getting me to come down and i felt them on my arms and face got a shard in my eye and i’d been muttering around the house about the feds and it was easy and you and tanya and farmer boy were there and separated from you all others were there to ask and they were snatching protesters from the street in minivans and some suited up i just wore my regular clothes and was i all right someone poured contact-lens solution in my eyes which made my seeing clear enough to return / the street the hail the broke windows the flayed carrot frill and hole-punched collard leaves the widower across the street the clothes of his wife he wore in grief the other days his laugh punching holes in the walls and mrs robertson and her grown twin sons next door they never spoke / how will it breathe my one good absence cupboarded with ease beside the mixing bowl what else in dark corners beside what containers can depend its ration of rightful raging what will it ponder my lucent lucid absence high on the shelf beside salt and pepper what else out of reach beside what bright napkin can sift its theory when will we trade false absence vernacular in brief life’s holding / I lost the item and looking for it craig fell out of the bathroom and broke the terrace window and rose could not find the headwaters of the wine and tanya said the sauna was booked no one went in or out shadows hunted the edge of the forest therefore the beach was a séance to raise the horizon how we searched and searched even those who were not looking even those who had lost nothing
The Dancing Studio
/ love among your defects are telling you come over here how do you know i haven’t been coming i grew up on a farm i’m not shy just not thinking about you mull it over money-wise only you and i matter put some lather on your elbows see you in the next life this can just be this would that be so awful you could let your hair get a little longer / generalities like the banker whose pinstripes mimic jail whose bribery goes unnoticed because it is not unpleasant this is the present it is general this is a check without a name the ride down belongs to everyone even though not everyone votes / the general is like trip to the junkyard last ride for the station wagon of my adolescence as we tore apart the upholstery with pocketknives and the spring the junkyard spent underwater the river rose above the dashboards that was very general it is the tray of crystal tumblers set beside the hotel window as the window opens and the room empties it is the wages of the factory where the tumblers are made television is general movies are specific the decision to commit a crime is one moment in a series of generalities beating a rug on the apartment railing is one way to get rid of generalities but only temporarily it is like delaware / it is like if a selfportrait bears any responsibility to me or has within its thick pliable weight my flaws making my body then i need to forget my body the clay it will know when is a puppet finished answer: to get to the other side which of us is speaking now / or misspeaking as what marble what button what pin in roadside gravel anywhere bears the story inside it like a gas a temperature will heat it into hearing i don’t like what i have lost though to infinitively liken these perishable feelings to the thrown-away or absent mindedly overdrawn accounts flimsy as an atm receipt to have done this and still to always be keeping an eye out for the demoted fragment like a bee keeper alert to the regent interior is either what one’s mother had hoped one would not spend one’s life doing those years of paint wearing away on the railings where one’s coat zipper scraped it entering the apartment which is now the space one imagines the contours of going to sleep or it is what had been the limited inevitable from first cry losing / looking until the pleasure of what you’re looking for finds you or the other pleasure sun reddening after the last cry the last window / the dancing studio through the window’s steam see how the dancers wear music like coats oh i’d dance when last did i in what life rain on eyeglasses like disco gleam as with schools for love when are you in one / if the two weren’t so close birth and death or let my senses be more precise and say noticing vs no longer noticing scratch that if these were nearer or the headwaters of a long river which is a song were life-close to its disgorgement mud and scales spreading into cold if just to return oceans / because i can’t tell a story / a friend i was talking to a few weeks ago who doesn’t like to read poetry what we have for a few thousand years agreed to call poetry here already and before words were said and i can still see in the dark where we sat talking her kiss like a villager come to the cave to bathe and ask the fortuneteller to take fortunes down from her hair already i probably knew the secret word or silence or didn’t need to know it unhurried and alert our bodies like brass instruments at rest on musicians laps while the audience which is us in the future sits on their coats / in the future ahead of the flowers at home I will have installed an automatic light in the kitchen touchlessly turning on when the room is entered it will stay on for a time see the clean white sink the crumbs scattered around the loaf then it will shut off
Ed Skoog's most recent book of poems is Travelers Leaving for the City (Copper Canyon Press, 2020).
Photograph: Wolfgang Tillmans