Four Hawks

Emily Skaja

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.

More by Emily Skaja

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.

Brute Strength

Soldier for a lost cause, brute, mute woman
written out of my own story, I’ve been trying
to cast a searchlight over swamp-woods & parasitic ash
back to my beginning, that girlhood—
kite-wisp clouded by gun salutes & blackbirds
tearing out from under the hickories
all those fine August mornings so temporary
so gold-ringed by heat haze & where is that witch girl
unafraid of anything, flea-spangled little yard rat, runt
of no litter, queen, girl who wouldn’t let a boy hit her,
girl refusing to be It in tag, pulling that fox hide
heavy around her like a flag? Let me look at her.
Tell her on my honor, I will set the wedding dress on fire
when I’m good & ready or she can bury me in it.