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Site design: Skeleton


Sample Poems by Michael Skau

I

Over the lakes and rivers, the swamps
surrounding them, miasmal mists rise
like fur, putrid hackles on the few
trees and scant brush. Standing and flowing
waters glare phosphorescent, garish
lights leaping at night in smothering
spread, feeble searchlights in fog, alarms
transmitted from no one to no one.
Apprehensive, we try to avoid
the waters, but thirst and stench seduce
us. After reluctant plunges, we
notice that our toenails, fingernails,
eyes, hair (if it grew back), and exposed
bones glow at night like crucifixes.

II

Iridescent skies spit tongues of fire
at earth's bomb-flung debris. Sometimes, long
afterward, the air explodes without
warning, sleeping pockets of unfixed
energy, ghosts of the bombs, biding
their time, taut stray violence waiting
for a tantrum in the atmosphere,
to violate the stillness with roars.
Once, by the river, an explosion
knocked me to the ground, and a fierce chain
of bangs, like firecrackers in series,
flashed and flared. Dazed, I threw myself in
the water; the seared flesh sizzled. Three
weeks I could not hear through my right ear.


III

The grey darkness is continuous
and snuffs our imaginations. Earth
seems sun-forsaken, our energies
fervorless, our brains thick and muted
as when one has a cold. Our movements
too are slowed, artificial, as though
we are suspended under water
or controlled by clumsy puppeteers.
I have no more dreams. Every action
seems purposeless and futile, helpless
to alter the irreversible
conditions of current existence,
and I cannot summon the will or
courage to adapt to vacancy.

IV

One of the crucial problems we face
is food. None of us knows anything
about contamination. Notions
of surviving the blasts but dying
from careless eating habits are grim.
We imagine that only the food
in cans and brown bottles will be safe,
but our logic is not very clear.
At first I camped by underground springs
and ate only roots, thinking the earth
itself had protected them from taint.
Soon the same urge that drove me to towns
regardless of safety transformed me
into a thoughtless, greedy glutton.

V

One might have thought that mere survival
might offer a bond, a pedestal
for community. One would soon be
disappointed. Casual violence
becomes the norm. Our tempers explode
in cold passion and ferocity
as motiveless as weather. We learn
to fear ourselves at every contact.
A blind workhorse wandered into camp.
Though no one could think of any use
for her, we built a makeshift corral.
The next night Jeff doused her tail and mane
with gasoline and set her afire.
We shot the horse and Jeff by morning.