Aubade with Attention to Pathos

Emily Skaja

I.
Wine drunk, ham-faced on the duvet. Cue feelings talk.

Should I have been more detached? Should I not have draped myself
on the heat vent wearing only my socks—like so?

Because he addressed me always by both names. Cooked for me when I wouldn’t eat.

Making Thanksgiving food for himself in October. Patron saint of the head start.
With his dog who spoke English, possibly other languages.

Trailing a red robe in the kitchen like he was waiting for coronation.

If I loved someone like that. A figure of questionable authority
figuring out which relics to preserve under cling wrap.

For the way he smelled like cedar. Mispronounced the names of plants.

 

II.
There’s an airport & then there’s The Airport
From Which He Called Me On Our Second Anniversary
To Say He Couldn’t Love Me & Would Never Marry Me Ever.
At some gate there’s a specifically culpable airplane he was on for 12 hours, no contact.

There’s another woman & then there’s The Woman
I Knew He Would Leave Me For, there in a hotel with him—
there to soothe him, to believe, as I did, in redemptive sadness.

There’s regret & then there’s being so angry at myself
that I drove all night until I found the water & walked into it, March lakewater

gray & stinging. Muscovy ducks in the shallows, their strange low muttering.

III.
What is this impulse in me to worship & crucify
                         anyone who leaves me—
I have tried to frame up the cavalry in gravel,
                        in rectangles, in an honor code
of stamping out the fire. I’m paying attention. Look.
                       There’s an exchange rate
for bad behavior. It begins with the word until.
                       I agreed to affirm small kindnesses
until disaster. A risk I could keep now & pay for eventually.
                       A contract that begets blame begets
guilt. I had to say at every stage I give permission to be hurt. Until.
                      Once he agreed to stay the night with me
& by morning a small ding in the glass had spidered over
                      his windshield. The cold shattering it completely.
It’s not anyone’s fault that this world is full of omens.
                      By all accounts, history is a practice
of ignoring things & hoping for the best. You can drive
                     yourself crazy with looking. You can expect
bad luck to mark you unfooled, fooled.
                     Light to mark you with light.

IV.
I know in this system I am not blameless.
                                                  I used to promise myself
that when we broke up I would tell him
                                                  I love you. I thought of it as a punishment.
I dreamed I let him look for me in the woods.
                                                I stayed perfectly quiet. I was covered in rough scales
& my eyelashes dropped burrs when I blinked.
                                                In the dirt below I watched him search for me.
He said Is it enough that I want to be different.
                                                Maple seeds spun out from my hair.

V.
I divorce thee history
of looking at him in the fog
coming up over Scotland.

I divorce thee, North Sea
longing by boat.

I divorce thee, insomnia.
I divorce me driving to him
five hours over ice

& then picking a fight.
I divorce him introducing himself

as my friend, never wanting to be
on the phone; I divorce thee
roasting pan & HGTV, I divorce

staying quiet willing him
to speak. Music for saying things

I wanted to ignore.
Anguish—I divorce thee.
I divorce thee, I divorce thee whole heart:

from the wingbone of a vulture,
I’ve made you a harp.

More by Emily Skaja

Four Hawks

circle the same mile of Indiana where I force myself to look

at every dead deer on the road, as if that braces me, as if I believe
it will protect me from losing anything good.

I can’t stop dreaming I’m hiding

my own prints in the snow, convinced
my mouth is a metal trap, a part of it, apart

from you, & when you pull me awake
it’s because I’m lining my body with burrs,

because I’m antlers & talons & I know

the smell of cedar is home, is a ring of sky
I love, but I can’t take it when

you say Only deer, only hawks.

Why is there nothing wild in you
to explain it, nothing killing; why

am I the chased thing horrified
to overtake myself in the brush I wonder &

if a deer darts across this road & the dead don’t
take it, don’t the dead wait, don’t I know,

don’t the dead always covet something running?

I count bodies like cold days in March.

Ten, eleven, twelve—& you
with the map unfolded, following the sky.

I wonder if you & I are twin limbs
of something running.

If you & I circle.

Dear Ruth

Anyone can be a plank-mouthed bird or anyone can be the sky hallelujah
is the accepted lie of hymns. Like a girl walking has never needed to fly

but could if she wanted. If winged & if the wings fit—if fielded, if felt.
What is the difference between asking & asking for it are the words

that we should burn into a field, Oh Glory. Whether you are lost
or whether you are the blondest bird leaned against a fence

hemming in an orchard, Ruth, you are the holy thing I look to.
So explain to me about the habits of cicadas, why only the men

speak, why it takes some of them 17 years to come correct.
All the leaves are eaten bare; yet the tree is not empty, we know

from experience—Ecclesiastes. Help me understand, help me reverse
the pilgrims’ stories. Make them rise up out of their bone crypts

doubled with purpose—bloodied, believing—& send them to war
for their girl queens. War for their daughters hallelujah

as it wasn’t in the beginning isn’t now & never shall be
world without end. Oh but God my God Amen.

I Have Read the Whole Moon

In March I drop an egg hoping a bird will fly out disbelieving
science. All the manuals tell me this is a logical contract.
You commit yourself to a shell & you end up flying. Fine.
Stone after stone, I’m defacing the river of being in love with you.
True, I don’t care how that sounds. I have a list
of cocoons to transform my body: Uncontrollable
Shaking. Sleep Paralysis. Dread of Eating. I’m guilty
of pretending the roads to your house are no longer roads
but deerpaths angled crooked through the marsh. Again the water
doesn’t stop; it rains even when the weather is overdue: a holy
parallel. My mouth is rotted & anonymous. The bed needs oars.
I’m interested in dust but only new dust arriving unmarked
after you leave. After you leave, you leave &
thicketed in sludge I’ve been glued open. Self as spectacle:
Yolk Marvel. Unbird. Emily as grave pillar as salt lick as dammed up
luminous in thread. I have read the whole moon
cycle; it doesn’t explain the cracks. Mercury for once
cannot be blamed. My dishes float in soap like little planets.
I drop my hands in the sink. They come up feathered.