The Misanthropist’s Cold Spring

The Misanthropist’s Cold Spring

by Judith Skillman

All mine, these ornamentals, the headache

they carry to my forehead, where allergies

spiral in sequence like DNA to beget

a new varietal. Stunned by the beheading

of another mimosa—thin leafed, sleek, one

I’d come to talk to upon returning

home to the same-old same-old sameness

of this seniority. Alone, no fellows,

not a colleague left to exchange physics jokes:

What did the subatomic particle

say to the duck? Quark, quark”.  Or

this impressive tour de force—black and white

cartoon of buffalo hugging stick figure

reads, all caps “I FOUND THE HUGS BISON”.

Today as yesterday the plum bears

no fruit. The grown daughter doesn’t call.

She’s learned I love the violin despite

its scratchy shrieking. Finished with therapy,

done with doctors—and no desire to change

or save the scribbles on an old-fashioned pad,

legal yellow, like the daffodils behind

that felled tree. If someone were here: A photon

checks into a  hotel. The bellhop asks,

“Can I help you get your luggage?” It replies

I don’t have any. I’m traveling light.

When slipped disc nails itself to bone,

in blasphemy I curse the thorny crown

my daughter’s come to worship. I pull out

another Thera-Cure, set it between shirt

and undershirt. Those otherworldly chimes

go on ringing as if Jeezus Himself

had landed in one of those private rockets

made by the idiot who thinks earth folk,

their planet soiled beyond saving, can migrate

to Mars. He stands before me as if in VR –

If this T-shirt is blue, you’re going too fast!

Harrumph. A laugh of sorts escapes. Once

I could play the clarinet. My embouchure’s

gone rusty as His shirt, His stupid promise.


Judith Skillman’s new book is Premise of Light, Tebot Bach. She is the recipient of grants from Artist Trust and the Academy of American Poets. Her poems have appeared in Shenandoah, Seneca Review, Cimarron Review, Zyzzyva, and other journals. She is a faculty member at Richard Hugo House in Seattle, Washington. 

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