Emily Skaja

March Is March

We go on forward. I go on floating my face
in a map of Lake Michigan, blue there

as logically as anywhere else. When he leaves I stop

washing the cups; I stop cleaning the floors.
I don’t have the patience to identify whether dirt is different

in the hue of his absence, if there is less of it,

if it possesses a graver, more articulate
sense of itself, grown worldly in suffering.

Water lurks in the drain like it’s gawking.

My mother says, Why not date yourself for a while.
Accordingly, I listen to all seven Harry Potters.

I go for long walks in a circle & insult Scalia on facebook

because I’m trying to win me over & these are my interests.
The radio is a dick to me. Pop songs are barbed with revelations

that make the people who listen to pop songs return

with a change of heart. Rihanna, I tweet. I need you to be okay
& not okay at the same time as me, together in a cycle.

I adopt a dog I keep as my shadow.

Every morning she cries when I leave, & I think Finally someone gets it.
I force myself to take time like a pill that stops my pulse

but just for a minute. Time collects around 4:30, refusing to move.

I leave the dog for an hour & she chews up
her bed, a blue blanket, her cage door

& I say You can’t keep doing this—

& I say What am I supposed to do—
& I say You don’t understand

I need to leave you EVERY DAY I need to leave.

Elegy with a Shit-Brown River Running Through It

Never have I ever let anyone skin me alive for my secrets. I grow true to seed. Unfamiliar with traditions of marksmanship. Whose grouse it is. Whose grouse I am after I fall. In this hayfield I say nothing at all to the hornets. I admire their mud huts. I think only in lists. The Time I Told You To Give Up Smoking. The Time I Believed You Would Live To Be Older Than Seventeen. When I think about all the ways there are to die. By falling ice. In a coat-check. With a gallon of ethanol stale in your gut. I am dizzy. I am missing your way of blinking at me in the sun. Bus tickets seep out of my pockets. By the river I drop a tree branch shaped like a tibia. In the center of my hand is a hole. I am used to it. Of course there is shouting. There is nothing I can get behind less than drunk huntsmen observing male rituals with gusto. I would rather look at the river through the burned-out circle of my hand. Somewhere in here is a fish with a hook in its mouth—I’m sure of it.


Emily Skaja grew up next to a cemetery in northern Illinois. Her poems have appeared in Best New Poets, Blackbird, Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, and elsewhere. Emily was the winner of the 2015 Gulf Coast Poetry Prize and the runner-up for the 2014 Black Warrior Review Poetry Contest. She is the recipient of The Russell Prize for emerging poets, an Academy of American Poets Prize, and an AWP Intro Award. Emily earned her MFA at Purdue, and currently she lives in Ohio, where she is a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati. Find her online at emilyskaja.net.