Kafka’s Father

Snorts in the passageway, pinches the delicate ones—

those who wear the jackdaw’s gray plumage.

Kafka’s father and Kafka’s father’s two dead sons.

This trilogy in which a Czech accent flourishes, upon which

the holy days continue to riffle the year.

Can such a man corrupt the liver of a virgin goose?

A bread job, then. A useless son for Kafka’s father,

this loser looking into the lost fingers of workers.

A bit of blood spreads through the lungs.

Feathers ink the page. It’s 2 pm or 2 am?

At what hour does the incessant womanizing begin?

How to avoid marriage, how continue flirtations with


Kafka’s father’s son, dirty with the sex of octaves.

Filthy to himself, and as for marriage,

that rumor died in Munich. That consummation—

a conjugation of who, with whom, when, and why.

The father above, the son below, High German spoken

to veil a lowly Yiddish dialect.

Its only remaining artifact—a few satin skirts

left to themselves like theater curtains,

in whose wake the story exists.

Give us a moment to learn to pray for Kafka’s father.

Pater in his silk dressing gown with the dusty lilies,

the one who rises early to begin his work again.

Judith Skillman

Judith Skillman’s recent book is House of Burnt Offerings, Pleasure Boat Studio. Her work has appeared in Cimarron Review, J Journal, Seneca Review, Tampa Review, Prairie Schooner, FIELD, The Iowa Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. Awards include an Eric Mathieu King Fund grant from the Academy of American Poets. Visit www.judithskillman.com

Contributions by Judith Skillman