Judith Skillman

Death of Pan


We were only playing in the pasture,
wearing a patchwork of sun and sky,
ragged with the coming autumn.
That is to say we didn’t mean
to drown out the sound of his flute—
our piper, nor meddle with the conch shell
that caused our fathers to panic.

And his Arcadia—
how we adored her. We made wreaths
of wildflowers, twined tendrils of her hair
around our stubby hands as we brought
her one more gift: a leaf bloodied with color,
a spare sapling, an agate choked in quartz.

Until the river-god,
happy as ever to be plunged in cold,
took him from our arms and flung
his instrument against the rocky shore.
The syrinx shattered into seven reeds or nine,
and we, still infatuated with the echoes
our voices made in that valley, called out
to one another, not so much from loneliness
as the excitement of recitation.

Light breezes
dog us as we go forward in reconnaissance,
teaching one another how to suffer
being schooled by lechers. Our appetite
for the one called Pitys—another nymph
loved by him, who turned into a pine tree
to escape his overtures,
runs nil to none.


“Death of Pan” previously appeared in The Never (Dream Horse Press, 2010)..

Judith Skillman is the author of twelve books of poems, including The Never (Dream Horse Press, 2010), and Heat Lightning: New and Selected Poems (Silverfish Review Press, 2006), and two which were finalists for the Washington State Book Award. Her most recent collection, The White Cypress (Cervéna Barva Press, 2011) was reviewed favorably in The Pedestal Magazine and The Iowa Review and has a review forthcoming The Raven Chronicles. She has received awards from the Academy of American Poets,  the King County Arts Commission (KCAC) Publication Prize, a KCAC Public Arts grant, and a Washington State Arts Commission Writer’s Fellowship. Her poems and translations have appeared in Poetry, FIELD, The Southern Review, The Iowa Review, Midwest Quarterly Review, Northwest Review, Prairie Schooner, Seneca Review, and other journals and anthologies. She’s been writer in residence at the Centrum Foundation in Port Townsend, Washington, The Hedgebrook Foundation, and the Jack Straw Foundation. Skillman resides in Kennydale, Washington, and teaches for The Yellow Wood Academy, Mercer Island, Washington.

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