Kafka’s Wound

by Judith Skillman


Toward sunset it bleeds orange, plums,
and wine. The father always at table
with his mug in hand. How long
must a son allow the city to unwind
its long avenues, branching rivers

full of walkers insular with autumn.
It’s true the blade took garlic cloves
from their little white coats,
so pliant, the stems beneath that fat knife
wolfing into the core of the matter.

It’s true there must be a mother somewhere
in the story—her stringy hair, her roast
burning inside the oven. He sees the clock tower
in the square, glances up to find a rim of moon.
At least, for now, the hole’s been bled
of what it holds. As far as a man can walk
the shops stretch, their signs reversed.
Closed for another, longer night.
Withholding exactly that porcelain—
that Jan Becher Karlovy liqueur cup

one needs to clamp between finger
and thumb. He’s learned one lesson.
This wound must be purged each day.
Else the stench of what it carries
emanates from his mouth, and others turn away.


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Judith Skillman

Judith Skillman has published fourteen collections of poetry. Her latest book is Broken Lines—The Art & Craft of Poetry, Lummox Press. Her poems have appeared in FIELD, Midwest Quarterly Review, The Iowa Review, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, and other journals. She is the recipient of awards from the Academy of American Poets and others. She has taught at City University, Richard Hugo House and elsewhere.

Contributions by Judith Skillman