Our poetry editor, Joe Pan, has selected two poems by Emily Skillings for his series that brings original poetry to the screens of Hyperallergic readers.

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Dara Cerv, "The Hardest Thing about it is the Guesswork," paper, glue, 8.5 x 11 inches (image courtesy the artist)

Dara Cerv, “The Hardest Thing about it is the Guesswork,” paper, glue, 8.5 x 11 inches (image courtesy the artist)

Fort Not

I’m not really that kind
of smart. Sometimes I can hardly.
I hear a little bell
and a film gets all over.

Twice yesterday, actually,
the imagined consensual entered.
Held onto for a long time. A shriek
parade was ordered by the county.

The new gender I wanted to become
was actually more of an arm
strong, accurate, elegant, lilting

and weaponized. Scrolling white text
opened doors to previous anticipation.
The opening credits came on last,
all puffed out with options.

I did this very gentle tapping
to activate the month in my skull.
I watched some massage-related porn
for purely relaxational purposes,

locked violets and crystals
in the gun safe. Mold bloomed
on the ceiling in the museum
of best practices. Everyone got sour.

If it’s ok to cry
in this widening, groaning hall,
I’ll do it after I sign
for the deliveries.

The smallest muscles in my hands
are hard at work
generating a closeness to god
that is rare in these parts.

When I end the American movie
and it rains all over the Puget Sound,
will you shepherd me
to the opposite of safety.

Place one hand at the small
of my wreck. Pour out
every single refreshment.
There’s so many savings

and so little time.
Sally wore a bathing suit.
Nobody’s home
at the Holiday Inn Express.

The scenic route drowned
a long time ago.
Didn’t you know? Water froze
in the generation.

Your Daughter Is Missing

please help us in the search
your daughter is missing
your lovely daughter is missing
your happy, bright, and funny girl
vanished, reported gone

she was wearing a pink sweatshirt
the last time
the color of a lamb’s tongue
when she was last seen
when she went missing, your child
I’m sorry but when did you notice
the empty yard
was last out front
nothing in her hands
waiting for nothing
standing, waiting for the day
to slap her in her blank face
and take her out

dirty blonde, green, little rubber sandals
answers to the name
All That Is Good
shorts with turtles, braided string ankle,
answers to the name
Outline of a Garment
answers to the name Cultural Wound

last seen sometime
last seen alone
half past the hour
every hour that passes
was there a man
it gets harder, less likely
any history in the family
a shadow, a portal

the children at school
they say they miss her
her teachers say she never
finished her lessons
her babysitter crosses herself
talks to reporters

your girl was she gloomy
did she look hard at the aquarium
was she receiving special attention, gifts
on the night she was conceived, did the air smell noxious

did you regret her, your child
did your street begin to curve ominously
if you close your eyes can you see a bootprint

video surveillance shows
her hands at a counter
turning air,
pushing coins toward
a boy clerk
fingers small as necessity

an employee saw someone
fitting the description
of your very young, missing girl
marching with a rail spike
tied to a tiny staff
anointing the local Virgin Mary
with red juice

we are combing the woods
looking for something of her
for traces, scraps
we’re draining the nearby pond
all we found was a plastic arm
police found ribbons and hair
and scissors and 200 eyelashes
in the KFC bathroom
perhaps unrelated

can you think of the time
you were inside, stretching
you were folding
or were you stirring
she had chalk
our evidence report details
her outline in a bright but sad green
then in purple
were you the one
to trace her body
was that before or after noon
had she eaten, were you tired
were your eyes closed

she was out in front
maybe she is still alive
she looked like a girl
holding a smaller girl
holding an even smaller girl
maybe in her hands was the figure
of a young girl
or a warming cup of water

she was only an age, so free
not enough language to take her
she barely made it out of you alive
standing and squinting
into the garden she was wearing
a redder version of herself

your very young girl
every hour that passes
her blood gets sweeter
she was only just a
little idea of a thing
your missing daughter
she has bitten us
torn something away
did you notice anything
could you tell us
the last time
we are combing the woods
we are needing, all of us,
to know
what happened to her

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Emily Skillings is a dancer and a poet. She is the author of two chapbooks: Backchannels (Poor Claudia) and Linnaeus: The 26 Sexual Practices of Plants (No, Dear/Small Anchor Press). Recent poems can be found/are forthcoming in LitHub, jubilatPleiadesPhantom Limb, Philadelphia Review of Books, Stonecutter, Bone Bouquet, Big Lucks, and Poor Claudia :: Crush. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is a member of the Belladonna* Collaborative, a feminist poetry collective and event series. With poet Adam Fitzgerald, she co-curated the exhibit “John Ashbery Collects: Poet Among Things” at Loretta Howard Gallery. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University and runs the Earshot reading series with Allyson Paty.

Joe Pan grew up along the Space Coast of Florida and attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His debut poetry book, Autobiomythography & Gallery, was named “Best First Book of the Year” by Coldfront...