Image by Juliana Toro

Poetry The Fool

Emily Skillings

I, too, long for a cradle
Of brilliant grasses
Braided through with wildflowers
Rocking on a historic mound
That drinks the blood of men
Clots of irreverent sight—
A shadow spills out
Of a pinprick
In the form

Down below on the hill
The men gasp and gurgle
Until they go out
Their weapons flirting in the sunshine
Slick with insides
The grasses grow strong and toxic
So goes my life
A kind of proto-cinema
A phantasmagoria
Shuddering towards the ultimate goal
Passed down through generations
Of whisperers, liars, mothers,
Scrapbookers, clowns
To extract the alien life form that is desire
And drown it

Do you know who I am?
I have some names. You pick.
One of them is Alice
One of them is Trudy
My name is Bunny
I’m called Pearl, “The
Inheritor.” Some call me
The Next One. My name is
Went to Market
Didn’t you know?
Hello, hello
It’s me, Virginia!
Actually it’s Olive Oyl
Calliope’s foolish little hyperlink
Slightly drunk on the thin stripes
Of neon fat astride
The tops of clouds

The sky is cold and unlikely
When I go on the airplane
I get all funny
Start thinking about vessels
Where I end and where light
Ends. What I contain
What contains me—Miss,

Can I please have some juice?
Nine swallows
Of triple-distilled vodka
Two pink packets of sweetener—
I’ll flick them vigorously
Like a tiny bag of drugs—
And bring me Dryden’s Virgil, a roasted lemon
Green ball of primordial fire
A cup of ice
Some nail glue

Arriving in the dead of air
Unstoppered, low on fumes
I know I can be hard to understand—
Not entirely reasonable—things
Can start to feel a little silly—forgotten—
I’ve forgotten what—exactly what—Hey!
a strange figure
nuzzles my outline
I’m beginning to think
that long ago
I got stuck in a poem
your poem
and grew weary
and lay down and slept
and perished there
it’s not entirely unpleasant
bursts, itches of flowers
painting their lines
dividing up my things
I can feel them growing
over me, covering me
entering me
even now 

Emily Skillings is the author of the poetry collection Fort Not (The Song Cave, 2017) and the editor of Parallel Movement of the Hands: Five Unfinished Longer Works by John Ashbery (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2021). She currently teaches creative writing at Yale, NYU, and Columbia and lives in Brooklyn.