aubade with attention to pathos
BY EMILY SKAJA
Wine drunk, ham-faced on the duvet. Cue feelings talk.
Should I have been more detached? Should I not have draped myself
on the heat vent wearing only my socks—like so?
Because he addressed me always by both names. Cooked for me when I wouldn’t eat.
Making Thanksgiving food for himself in October. Patron saint of the head start.
With his dog who spoke English, possibly other languages.
Trailing a red robe in the kitchen like he was waiting for coronation.
If I loved someone like that. A figure of questionable authority
figuring out which relics to preserve under cling wrap.
For the way he smelled like cedar. Mispronounced the names of plants.
There’s an airport & then there’s The Airport
From Which He Called Me On Our Second Anniversary
To Say He Couldn’t Love Me & Would Never Marry Me Ever.
At some gate there’s a specifically culpable airplane he was on for 12 hours, no contact.
There’s another woman & then there’s The Woman
I Knew He Would Leave Me For, there in a hotel with him—
there to soothe him, to believe, as I did, in redemptive sadness.
There’s regret & then there’s being so angry at myself
that I drove all night until I found the water & walked into it, March lakewater
gray & stinging. Muscovy ducks in the shallows, their strange low muttering.
What is this impulse in me to worship & crucify
anyone who leaves me—
I have tried to frame up the cavalry in gravel,
in rectangles, in an honor code
of stamping out the fire. I’m paying attention. Look.
There’s an exchange rate
for bad behavior. It begins with the word until.
I agreed to affirm small kindnesses
until disaster. A risk I could keep now & pay for eventually.
A contract that begets blame begets
guilt. I had to say at every stage I give permission to be hurt. Until.
Once he agreed to stay the night with me
& by morning a small ding in the glass had spidered over
his windshield. The cold shattering it completely.
It’s not anyone’s fault that this world is full of omens.
By all accounts, history is a practice
of ignoring things & hoping for the best. You can drive
yourself crazy with looking. You can expect
bad luck to mark you unfooled, fooled.
Light to mark you with light.
I know in this system I am not blameless.
I used to promise myself
that when we broke up I would tell him
I love you. I thought of it as a punishment.
I dreamed I let him look for me in the woods.
I stayed perfectly quiet. I was covered in rough scales
& my eyelashes dropped burrs when I blinked.
In the dirt below I watched him search for me.
He said Is it enough that I want to be different.
Maple seeds spun out from my hair.
I divorce thee history
of looking at him in the fog
coming up over Scotland.
I divorce thee, North Sea
longing by boat.
I divorce thee insomnia.
I divorce me driving to him
five hours over ice
& then picking a fight.
I divorce him introducing himself
as my friend, never wanting to be
on the phone; I divorce thee
roasting pan & HGTV, I divorce
staying quiet willing him
to speak. Music for saying things
I wanted to ignore.
Anguish—I divorce thee.
I divorce thee, I divorce thee whole heart:
from the wingbone of a vulture,
I’ve made you a harp.
Emily Skaja grew up next to a cemetery in northern Illinois. Her poems have been published by Best New Poets 2015, Blackbird, Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast, jubilat, and other journals. Emily was the winner of the 2015 Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, The Russell Prize for Emerging Poets, an Academy of American Poets College Prize, and an AWP Intro Award. She earned her MFA at Purdue University, and is now a PhD student in Poetry at the University of Cincinnati. Emily also works as the Associate Poetry Editor of Southern Indiana Review. Her website is emilyskaja.net.