Poems and Texts

“Matron of No” by Emily Skillings

Matron of No

There are so many paintings of Lucretia
stabbing herself and they’re all
pretty terrific. My personal favorites
are the ones where she looks bored (Rembrandt,
Parmigianino, Sellaer, Cranach
the Elder) like she’s just sticking
a casual reminder
between her tits that life is suffering,
and a certain quota of daily blood
is needed for a decant into that ancient
ceremonial chalice of feminine shame. Drip

drip. Reclining on a sofa in the mid-century style
I allow a stranger’s black and white boy cat
with bright pink rubber caps on all its claws
and a clipped tail to knead a soft space, this shelf
of fat above my organs. It feels invasive
but not unpleasant, a therapy
taken in foggy discomfort.

Caught in my phone’s own beam
is my greasy face, which, downturned,
admires the Expressionist skyscraper
proposed but never built
by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
for Berlin’s Friedrichstraße, its points
pointing at an overgrowth in me,
my finger hovering over the street,
no vehicles below, no people,
the black smudge of city movement
implying by erasure
those who move through
its striated, dynamic soot.

And what of the top? A blade garden.
Full of women seeking aesthetic revenge.
I think I might like to go away.
I think I might like to bond
with the darkest stuff, revisit the peeling corner
that exists in almost every room,
and is exquisite artwork that nobody looks at—
to sit with it awhile until a feeling of lateral
motion takes over, a whisk
into a syncretion of senses
from different legendary themes.

And now the cat is on the dining room table
licking goat cheese from an earthenware bowl.
The big windows let the night in on a timer.
The room does its thing to me again.
“Your lips / your eyes.” That gentle shuffle
of petals across the brain.

This poem originally appeared in The Brooklyn Rail

Emily Skillings

Emily Skillings is the author of the poetry collection Fort Not (The Song Cave, 2017), as well as two chapbooks, Backchannel (Poor Claudia) and Linnaeus: The 26 Sexual Practices of Plants (No, Dear/ Small Anchor Press). Recent poems can be found/are forthcoming in Poetry, Harper’s, Boston Review, Brooklyn Rail, BOMB, Hyperallergic, LitHub, and jubilat. She is a member of the Belladonna* Collaborative, a feminist poetry collective, small press, and event series. Skillings received her MFA from Columbia University, where she was a Creative Writing Teaching Fellow in 2017. She splits her time between Brooklyn and Hudson, NY.

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