Emily Skaja grew up next to a cemetery in northern Illinois. Her poems have been published by Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, and others. She is the 2015 winner of the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, the 2014 winner of The Russell Prize from Two Sylvias Press, the recipient of an Academy of American Poets prize, and the winner of a 2015 AWP Intro Award. Emily recently completed her MFA at Purdue, where she worked as Poetry Co-Editor of Sycamore Review. In the fall of 2015, she will begin a PhD at the University of Cincinnati.
In a story, a girl is a tree / is a bird / is a wilderness
A girl wakes up underwater Nail by nail builds herself
the same wooden raft Eats the mulberries & the blackberries
set out for the trap & she gets away from him
somehow, the price always half-drowning, half-death.
Compromised by longing & looking for language
to note the differences in the map: the pointed spruces
tipped against the moon this time
& the water half lit, star-slid– but it makes no difference
in the telling. The story is familiar
& she has been told what she can expect from men.
Because the body is incorrect. The body is fragile
in tar & marline, skin written over with shame
like a register of witch-burning. So the body is stubborn:
spalted pith of one lung falters, lumbers open.
Air, dirt air. When fingers reach for fox sedge, claw
for rushes, the air rushes up to meet her grassward.
So the body is inventory– Shunt.
Clutch of hair like a root looping back on itself.
Her hair is juniper rope.
I’m asking: how can she get at the start of this place?
Blue river nameless, sky blank, pointless
code of moss–if she’s traveling north now,
true north north to what?
I can say my voice is a burned voice
but she doesn’t know the way back
after the pigeons have eaten the words
I dredged with flour & left to rise.