Published on Academy of American Poets (

After Skate

He glides in on his single wing, after the signs go up. After
the truck leaves with the bunkbeds, grill, broken hall mirror.
After Scout is dropped off at the shelter. After the last look,

on the dying lawn. In the backyard, where the empty pool
stands open; he pops an ollie over the cracked patterns of tile:
tidal waves in neat squares. He kneels, checking angle against

depth. He lifts off where the board once leapt and leapt: cannon-
balls, swans: endless summer. He hurtles downward, kickturning,
sparks grinding hard on gunnite. Round the bend: the kidney,

the heart. The stone path where once glowed tiki torches at
the kingdom’s ukelele gate. He rockets out of the dead lots each
day, past swingsets and shut-off sprinklers, his board struck up

from whirlwind. Nobody’s home to the ownerless: he turns
inside their names, never minds ghosts, nothing in his wake.


Copyright © 2013 by Carol Muske-Dukes. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on May 20, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

About this Poem

"I read an article somewhere about a skate-boarder who comes in, like a flying dervish, to plunge and skate in the empty swimming pools and abandoned backyards of foreclosed homes in Southern California. Empty pools are supposed to provide optimum conditions for skateboarders, apparently--but I see the skater in my poem as somehow 'blessing' the loss of What Once Was: circling and circling within the dead dream."
—Carol Muske-Dukes


Carol Muske-Dukes

Carol Muske-Dukes was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on December 17, 1945. Her poetry collections include Blue Rose (Penguin, 2018), a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Sparrow (Random House, 2003), a National Book Award finalist.

Date Published: 2013-05-20

Source URL: