Contest 2014: Poetry Runner-up SELF PORTRAIT WITH HAWK & ARMADA by Emily Skaja
Emily Skaja grew up next to a cemetery in northern Illinois. Along with Julie Henson, she is the Poetry Editor of Sycamore Review. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Indiana Review, Indiana Review, PANK, The Pinch, Pleiades, and Southern Indiana Review. She lives with two dogs and a fish in Indiana, where she is a third-year poet in the MFA program at Purdue.
Self Portrait with Hawk & Armada
by Emily Skaja
Oh hawk after hawk over Indiana are you watching
me break up on bed after white bed sobbing doing all
the dishes except the one his mouth touched burying
my grief in the thaw-wet yard turning mud
into water miraculous What are you here to collect?
Permit me my report. Spring I can see is in full effect
allowing grassreedswildriverbirchfloodplains & even robins
are compelled by the way this broke the hell out of that’s ripped heart.
Slow. I’m taking it with Ecclesiastes. A time for a time for a time.
Yes, the winter was disappointing, hawk, but we’ve left scraps.
Beetles have arrived like shorn locusts shedding what I remember
of the summer when the trees buzzed with wings & shells the leaves
alive / alive It leaves the problem of remembering without erasing it—
for all of March I’ve felt the water rising & I’ve measured
what I knew. Oh hawk what’s your damage are you here to pick the bones
of the years I laid waste to like I never loved a thing So be it.
I see the beetles march across the linoleum & I let them.
Can’t feed young trees to the chipper Can’t suck the dirt out of my nails
but I can stand here reciting all the words I have
over the hole & that’s what’s left. Done with the whole dark
& the insect dirge under blue lit lamps. Done trying to remember
June, first stars, & August when I was Penelope when I was Eurydice
when July was missing & I was my own dull shade. Alone alone
Well I’m not hiding it I’m swimming out to meet the boats
coming armed up the river my body the figurehead
& I wish he were watching through a lead-black fog.
I had a hymnbook of his exits learned by heart. I thought I knew it.