Judith Skillman
The Gray Trees of August

Float in their dry beds
as if someone had died.
Someone has died.
Outside the pharmacy

they have removed the plants,
even the last blueberry
that stood over its pot gesticulating
as it browned.

The gray trees wandered all night
in their places. Sleep didn’t come.
Where there might have been tetanus
a deep muscle ached in a woman’s arm.

Pewter in the trees,
lead in the sky,
clouds where rain happens
before it can reach the earth.

In dust and pills a few pages
of the book that will be winter
loosens its little coat, removes
its illusions.

As if someone had died,
all night the trees stood still
for a Shiva attended by no one.
Heavy casseroles clattered as glass lids

sat upside down.
Countertops and floors sprouted
more of the gray dirt
a woman might wipe with her cloth.

A few stars cooled
as they rusted to the sky
and stuck fast. At five a.m.,
before sleep, came morning.

The woman thought of her heart.
Maybe she wandered outside herself,
beside wild roses gray as the trees.
Like treacle, what was left of the creek oozed.

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