Beauty adorns virtue, my Father says.
To save the family, and me, from the shame
of my disfigurement, he orders a corridor
to stretch from here to Santa Annunziata.
I beg forgiveness from the Holy Mother
at a hidden chink beside the altar.
Her perfect face is turned from me,
I am to reflect upon her piety.
My bedchamber floor maps out the world.
Every day I pace its length and breadth,
dip toes in oceans, trace the course of rivers,
trample the towers of the powerful,
reach the very edge, the land of monsters,
half-made things, strange and magical.
I slide down the wall, squat in this place,
feel light from the high window on my face.
The Garden of the Fugitives
These castings from the space
where flesh and bone used to be,
the moment fixed in gypsum.
Head tilts back, eyes roll, mouth loosens.
The mould presses replay
of the same death throe, sends one
to London, another to New York.
No grave goods, no funeral.
Lost at sea, the remains
must fetch up to grant a burial.
The ones left behind scout and pray
for anything to wash on shore,
hope ebbing with each acrid tide.
Years back, his body at the pier-
still himself- he held the spark for hours.
I wasn’t there when it left him,
came back to find a shell.
In less than a day his skin a husk,
to cover what had once been radiant.
Here is a zero, an indent in black sand,
ablaze with presence. I pour
handfuls of lava dust
on this never-living kernel,
put words on the frozen tongue,
in place of a coin for Charon.
Knitting a Father from Nettles
Scrape years of dirt
off the date, rip nettles
from the headstone.
Pay no heed
to swollen knuckles,
red welts at the wrist.
Wrap stem after stem
around the needle,
fibrous strands of story,
of faded photos,
Not one word
to pass your lips.
Echo his ghost,
rarest of visitors,
the slow shake of head
at the bottom of the bed.
Bind the waist
with a knitting belt
to pass a needle through.
nursing the baby,
stirring the pan,
stacking the shopping.
Shake out the finished thing
to settle on the space
around a father:
a winding sheet
for a dinge
in the mattress.
Knitting a Father from Nettles and other poems are © Annette Skade