“Nightshade Gazal” by Judith Skillman

Nightshade Gazal


Mother can no longer eat from the family of nightshades—

peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, all verboten, nightshades


make arthritis worse, stiffness cumbersome. In Hades

her girls lost half the year, down there, with the shades.


Call her Demeter, still, mother can no more imbibe

of sun berry than drink a potion from foxglove, nightshade


the color of indigo, ink dripping into her heart. Eradicate

her sadness, her endless grief, still she will refuse nightshades


when the waiter comes in his stiff whites to take her order.

She’ll explain, as if it were a story, how it started. Nightshades—


once her favorite vegetables, completely gone, the diet

works for her, and all is well in the garden of Eden, nightshades


aside. Mother me or what I will become in these two decades,

my own version of mother, her stories, her family, nightshade.


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Judith Skillman’s new collections are Broken Lines—The Art & Craft of Poetry (Lummox Press, 2013), and The Phoenix—New and Selected Poems 2007 – 2013 (Dream Horse Press). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, FIELD, The Midwest Quarterly, The Iowa Review, The Southern Review, A Cadence of Hooves, and other journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of grants from the Academy of American Poets, the Washington State Arts Commission, the Centrum Foundation, and the King County Arts Commission. She teaches for Yellow Wood Academy.

See judithskillman.com.

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