Two Poems by Judith Skillman

The Toll Man

Lives in his booth
beside the interstate,
takes coins,
makes change. Decades
pass—he accepts
dollars. Longer
still, he’s replaced
by an automaton,
but still
his hat rests on
metal casing.
You don’t see him
anymore, yet
he takes more from
your pocket than
a thief on that
train in between
Prague and elsewhere.
If one day you
refuse, try to drive
straight through without
paying, versions
of fate line up
to rip you out
and away. Every
day? Did it exist?
Was there ever
a car you
drove, one not driven
by the drones?
The toll man mute
now, bandaged by
invisible
hands, seems to wink
from that station
where, as a child,
you huddled cold
in the back seat
without seat belts,
exchanging looks
with sun and moon.


You’ll Never Heal

Though they say it could have been worse,
give you ice and pills, nothing bandages
the millisecond you can’t remember

or the afterwards, a shock wave traveling
in slow motion through your knee,
your back, neck and stomach.

Though they say the limp will disappear,
you feel as if cottonwood fell to the curb
to be collected by the accident
and packed into the ball and socket.

This kind of snow never melts.
Through glass you watch the great hulk of mountain,
that part you can see, its summit clipped
by cloud, frame, shadow.


SkillmanJudith Skillman’s new book is House of Burnt Offerings (Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press). Her work has appeared in Cimarron Review, J Journal, Tampa Review, Prairie Schooner, FIELD, The Iowa Review, Poetry, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poets, and other journals and anthologies. Awards include an Eric Mathieu King Fund grant from the Academy of American Poets. Currently she works on manuscript review: www.judithskillman.com

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