Ed Skoog

from MISTER SKYLIGHT

 

Big shot walks up his hat atilt,

a knife fight in his instep, starts laying it on.
The sky falters into the gutters, lobs a few

grenades against the barn, flash and pop,
and the air smells like cat. Am I a cop?
The thought had sprung up. The DJ is half man

and the floor looks like meowing. The idiot sweats.

It chews his haunch. For years now.
Where are the tigers to replace him?

Outside the Long Beach Airport,
pigeons have shat white the loudspeakers
deplaning locals roll suitcases by,

and always someone wears a pink
cowboy hat, or a fur from another climate.
Beside the boy with interlocking skulls

raining on his hoodie, the house sparrow
goes for crumbs of stale bagel.
The pilot’s gold epaulets catch on the cab door.

*

I then am Portuguese, spying through a glass,

leafing through maps up sort of the Nile,
or am returning, my knapsack
a jumble of unbearably small jade statues.

In this pane the gray cloud
is my mother in her housecoat.

Not all craft sink. Moored in a meadow,
the yacht rose above the valley. I found it
after a long time walking alone.

The mountains had battened it down,
scratched out its name.

Any fool could see it was the ark,
sign of some survival, quiet as Ash Wednesday.
I knocked on its ribs and no one answered.

Why should I think of this now?
The park’s closed. She locks the gate,

the carnival attendant, and drives home
to wash her convertible before the sun goes down.

Bring some beers over, she says.

*

Rain trick-or-treats the couple’s door,

but it is their red sedan that has been candied.
The hood glistens like licked cinnamon.

Perhaps I am riding an ox-drawn cart
on the western dip of Cuba’s green moustache.
The oxen are pulling their white thighs

across the water the rice field pours in.
The pepper-trees are turned up to the highest degree.
There is a sunset, finally.

Something is over again. Unbundle the curtain,
hang it on the bar, raise it into the dusky fly.

I dig my beat, sweating. I hold out. I get taken,
who never understands my hunger, its

terrible comfort.

*

A hole as if Skylab has fallen

through the clouds into my disarray,
a precise pouch, precise and utter

removal, force an eye from some dark animal
all pupil, with no center. The alley

tortures.
There is a pavement to her comedy.

Mincemeat dragged through a wet glacier.
A dagger slipping across the continent’s ribcage.
I am one long hear. Put your hand in my mouth,

let me taste, and in return, feel all my orbits.
You think time flies? It falls to earth.

But sometimes evenings after dinner,
the news, the pipe he knocks against the railing,
my father spoke about the time their Buick

tumbled down the hill and she was pregnant
with the first boy, how their comfort spun.

He is still surprised, each moment, how
they rose and dusted themselves off,

and, feeling the baby kick, and, the tires
having landed right, just drove home.

*

The late-night menu mumbles something (inaudible).

Fat roils the smoked turkey in the black skillet,
as I chop mint from Strawberry Creek,
and I am parsing onions, carving peppers,
segmenting celery and measuring flour.

Mister Skylight shines down, full,
engorged, shining on all ships from the gorilla sky.

A lazy brown settles over the dogs and foxes.

Get Skoog with the whale ballet in his head.
Listen, the first alarm. Man the lifeboats.
Then, as neighbors move around their house

at night, shuffling and washing,
help a man who falls in, over and over.
Now all the horses are
poplars waving across the immense field.

Jesus in my nightmare
comes down the gravel driveway,
a teenager in sportswear
go home I say
he says give me your home.

*

This is it, spaceman: life on Earth.

It starts when she turns off the lamp
and points to the city’s orange crown.

Schoolchildren hold up candles
for Mister Skylight’s midnight ride.

By now I could hold it in my palm
or sip from it. From some porches,
the night is more. Get ready

for the all-skate, the group swim.
My hand falls to her lap, our teeth click.

My soul steps outside. Down boulevards
hot rods abduct the day. Saudade

in car wash dust; wind along a post office;
a sprinkler reflected in the windows.
The pool’s open; why aren’t we swimming?

*

On the garbage truck, the runners hang

half-out, undefined. Shouting they lift
lug, tug, huff, drag, and push
up the bright defecations, Chinese take-out

and new Sonys, the granola salad of litter boxes,
acres of bubble wrap, ripped tissues,

fish gone bad like plague, blood clots,
suppositories, diapers, the vomit
of the cancer patient wiped up with Brawny,

rum vomit of the bright girl,

the sheet music to Clair de Lune,
cuttings from a holly, oyster shells
on top, round mirrors of the dawn.

 

“Mister Sky Light” is reprinted from Mister Skylight (Copper Canyon Press, 2009). Most of the book was written in New Orleans prior to 2005, and revised heavily in the aftermath of the engineering failure that flooded the city following Hurricane Katrina.

 

Ed Skoog’s second book of poems, Rough Day, will be published by Copper Canyon Press in 2013. His first book, Mister Skylight, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2009. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Paris Review, The New Republic, Poetry, Narrative, Ploughshares, Tin House, and elsewhere. He has been a Bread Loaf Fellow, Writer-in-Residence at the Richard Hugo House, and the Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Residence at George Washington University. His work has received awards from, among others, the Lannan Foundation and the Poetry Society of America. He is a visiting writer at the University of Montana for 2012-2013. He lives in Seattle.


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