Judith Skillman

after John Ashbery

It becomes important, as one learns
about Howdy Doody, to set urns.

That face, empty of expression, its eyes’
avatar-inspired insipid gaze.

Who else glazes over in age?
Absent husks equal W

Stevens’ Snow Man, WCW’s
wheelbarrow. How surprise a stage?

A husband puts into the yard—
khaki pants. Nose she squeezes

hard to get a glance. Oaths,
trees, breezeways glitter as sun

sets on this longest day. Yen
for politics, a priori, can’t be known.

Amusement park equals distortion.
Centrifuge, pop corn, Ferris wheel.

Let circling couples spend tickets.
Allow Shakespearean twin

trapped between the paddle-boat wheels
in contours similar to the eel

of the mind? Alas, someone said. Ergo
the leopard’s false fur, its white collar.

The stiff ventriloquist here
sticks his arm up talk’s arse.


Judith Skillman’s new book is Premise of Light, Tebot Bach. She is the recipient of grants from Artist Trust and the Academy of American Poets. Her poems have appeared in Shenandoah, Seneca Review, Cimarron Review, Zyzzyva, and other journals. She is a faculty member at Richard Hugo House in Seattle, Washington.

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