Elusive Mysteries, The Turnip & Leavings

by Judith Skillman

Elusive Mysteries

Again she is gone, Kore,
the maiden who held
a sheaf of wheat
in her hand. Cold fogs the yard,
the dog barks at hoarfrost.

Once more she has been abducted—
how cold she must be, beneath
the earth, shivering, her room
so small it could be a grave.
How many seeds will she eat?

And yet I remember her
singing, empty-handed, playing
at being pretty. I recall
feathers in her hair,
how soft the green trellises

of trees knitting kite strings
above her head.
As if it were yesterday
I hear the sound of her name
in every language.

All the mothers searching
their cellars, looking for stairs
down into the earth,
and she already complicit
with the underworld.

She the go-between for a hare,
a golden dog, a sick woman
on a thin mattress,
and twin owls whose yellow eyes
hold prey in oval pupils.


The Turnip

Once more you force
its fisted mass. Blanched
white with a feather of pink—
the bloodless promise?
Has the chemistry of want
exploded the dreamy cluck
of that heart in your chest?
Under the sky, the grave of dawn’s
planted again—its beginning
wed to the same milky stone.



In back of the flat I planted
a finger. Worms came
to leaven the soil. A trill—
dada dada dada.
Away from the room,
in rain and early dusk,
I planted other oddments:
a cork bridge,
a fist. Though bound,
how those crossed fingers
longed to arch and touch.








Judith Skillman’s collection, The Phoenix, New and Selected Poems 2007 – 2013, is forthcoming from Dream Horse Press. She’s the recipient of awards from Academy of American Poets, King County Arts Commission, and Washington State Arts Commission. Her poems and collaborative translations have appeared in Poetry, The Midwest Quarterly, Northwest Review, FIELD, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Tar River Poetry, Ezra, and elsewhere. Skillman teaches at Yellow Wood Academy, Mercer Island, Washington. Visit http://www.judithskillman.com

One thought on “Elusive Mysteries, The Turnip & Leavings

  1. susanaisy says:

    Masterful poems by one of the greats.

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