poems by Askold Skalsky

Already seeking a foundational bedrock in the golden age


A gaspingly impatient hominid

clinging to a sea-wave battered rock,

just an isolated promontory jutting

into the vast and wine-dark vacancy

while the dense filaments of some


watery creature underneath lashes him

with spray and brine and the un-fastening

power of the depths. But you, Odysseus,

flinging the ductile filament out into

the void of your own making, as it were,


trying to hook something or someone—

to catch a persona over which to hang

your precious séance of a self, a dose

of substantializing serum from the vats

of space where no autobiographies arise,


only a cinerarium of watchful spider-eyes

turned on themselves and spinning an-

other gossamer tale while reeling toward

an elusive home with all its beckoning fires

and buried axe heads in ancestral soil.




Reality check


After a brew of wild orchids

everything was forgotten.

We lived together for a year,

copulating like hot kernels

on a hearth. Afterwards the dense

crystals of our habitual wants

sorted themselves like skips

and slides on playground sand,

then disappeared in our door’s

shadow while we struggled to

retain an optimism without

illusion amid walls of shining

marble and wide streets where

people gathered for passionate

debates about the meaning of life,

like the surrealists at their urinal,

flirting with oppressive creeds

in the manifestoes of their dreams.




The Ploiești raids


Why believe in old and semi-beautied Bucharest?

Or the Ploesti fields in their drear-drilling labor,

sucking up the oil under planes, subject to obliteration,

the erasure from materiality, so many years ago?

The booming phosphorescence irradiating the night

skies conferred a flaring confidence that something

would still remain on the generally unturbulent

and semi-solid dirt that turned within its globe.

What need was there for god to save us from the shaking

shards, the intolerable bursts resounding on the ground,

so long as there was firmity, its usual semblance

underneath our feet. We ran among the screaming

and irrefutable certainty of other bodies moving

in the din, as real as the already dead behind us.

We had no doubts in matter and what it could do

for us—or to. The seven days with their grand finger’s

touch were pulverized among the trembled surging

of our blood, feeling the world’s undeniable enormity—

and it was good.






         An undisturbed state of mind and feeling

         held to be ideal by ancient philosophers.


Those old pyrrhonists, their tough lizard

elbows brushing against the tent posts

of the marketplace, or living in a tub

near the dead bones of the sea

to practice quadruple remedies,

formularies against fear, battering

proud stoics with the five tropes

of anti-knowledge (infinite regressions

on their way to unprovable initial affirmations

via the eclectic gardens of discordance),

when all they really wanted was a posit

of happiness, the quietude of a school

like any other, free of dogmatic vex

and unsinged by Heraclitean fire

in the interstices of the wide Cyclades,

which stopped drifting long ago,

birthing beings with the blank poise

of inner logos, a wide scoop of serenity

in every tenor of their marbled face.




Naked singularities in the 70’s


Even then there were black holes,

the gravity fields shoving their matter

inwards and downwards like a loose sphincter

while the pressure of radiance pushed up

and the star furnaces sputtered and gave out—

something imploded, something belched.

Zen Master So-En-So told a tale

of hungry giants with demented minds

that ate up cities, mountains, tracts

of dark ferrite as they rose from the deep

to battle the sky gods, then collapsed,

their masses squished like soft, enormous

bugs that wake one morning from bad dreams.

To be a little crazy is not enough, he said.

You must become completely crazy.



poems by Askold Skalsky

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