I feel sick.
I feel very sick.
I feel very sick all the time.
Many have observed this,
but I am saying it now—
that packaged
with an experience of me
as a person is also
the experience of hearing me
tell you the ways
in which things feel
not at all right
at any given moment.
For instance,
there are these aching gaps
where my fingernails end,
where outer space intrudes
as punishing meaning,
rushing towards an alcove
of inner ease. Form is
a muscle weakening
around my limbs. Could you
speak a little louder?
There is this small metallic
churning in my left ear.
Been there years.
No foods agree with my stomach.
I shake at odd hours.
Trees, whipping about,
hurt my teeth, as does even
the most genial applause,
which I have complained about
since childhood—a marriage
of praiseworthy performance
with pain in the jaw—so that
early in the formation
of memories, classical music
became associated with
an ache nobody else
understood. I take
my earrings out.
They still feel in.
When I'm at a party
I feel sickest
because of the curators.
When I ask the people my age
what they do exactly
it gets very vague and funny,
until I'm catching
huge chunks
of sterile cotton in midair
and applying them to
my sores and scabs.
The jungle’s wallpaper
knocks my eyes
out of alignment. No day
exists where I do not vomit
or think about vomiting,
all initiated by motion or
its opposite, the inability
to move or decide, a paralysis
brought on by the glimmering
bounty of the everyday. The world
ends in a big flash
on the screen of my desiring
forehead and a gel of pictures
pours out of my ass.
The recurring feeling
of falling through the base
of my skull and pooling
in my own shoes. My skin
is growing very thick
but a thickness that extends
towards outside affinities
as if to shake hands, like a
ill-equipped shoreline,
not a thickness that acts
as a barrier
not one that makes me safe.
I've never gotten at
what's good and what's not
but I think I know
that the opposite
of the Yiddish proverb
is truer. Better to have
a beautiful hole
than an ugly patch.
“You love that dirty,
off-gold color,”
he says to me
looking at my hands
and big, decaying purse
which are full of it
and trembling
(is trembling always
I think it’s not that.
I think I like the very clean
gold the perfect kind
that comes from love
and approaching a source
and there I am
collecting it and
making it mine and
then something happens
something awful
again and again.

Maria Callas

My sinus is a chamber
in which small bells
wave each other songs.
The glass water bottle
        with the mint latex sleeve
                holds the time it takes
to manipulate a window
                    into the art I want for
                        lunch. I read and reread
the story and still it was
                            strange to me, like leaves
                                on a tree birthing great birds.
The color came from
                                    a crushed bug to be
                                                    brushed on the face
of the imposter. Her
                                        rosy halo disturbed
                                                        the garden’s symmetry.
The untranslatable word
                                            is the heretofore unknown
                                                                room in your house
that presents itself in dreams
                                                and holds amazing lamps
                                                                        and sitting surfaces
you never knew you missed
                                                    out on. It’s true—I’m a poem
                                                                          person not book person.
And I never listen to the radio,
                                                          though sometimes its attending
                                                                                  sensation surrounds me
suddenly, like a mothering fog
                                                                    or a cell of glass tile
                                                                                                    like a minor spell.

Emily Skillings

Emily Skillings is the author of two chapbooks: Backchannel (Poor Claudia) and Linnaeus: The 26 Sexual Practices of Plants (No, Dear/ Small Anchor Press). Her first full-length collection of poetry, Fort Not, will be published in 2017 by The Song Cave. Skillings is the recipient of a 2017 Pushcart Prize, and recent poems can be found in Brooklyn Rail, BOMB, Hyperallergic, jubilat, Pleiades, and Washington Square. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is a member of the Belladonna* Collaborative, a feminist poetry collective and event series. Skillings is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, where she is currently a Teaching Fellow in the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program. She co-hosts the monthly reading series EARSHOT with Allyson Paty.

Photograph by Christie MacLean


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