Judith Skillman

by Best Poem

The Death of Pan

We were only playing in the pasture,
wearing a patchwork of sun and sky,
ragged with the coming autumn.
That is to say we didn’t mean
to drown out the sound of his flute-
our piper, nor meddle with the conch shell
that caused our fathers to panic.

And his Arcadia-
how we adored her. We made wreaths
of wildflowers, twined tendrils of her hair
around our stubby hands as we brought
her one more gift: a leaf bloodied with color,
a spare sapling, an agate choked in quartz.

           Until the river-god,
happy as ever to be plunged in cold,
took him from our arms and flung
his instrument against the rocky shore.
The syrinx shattered into seven reeds or nine,
and we, still infatuated with the echoes
our voices made in that valley, called out
to one another, not so much from loneliness
as the excitement of recitation.

                      Light breezes
dog us as we go forward in reconnaissance,
teaching one another how to suffer
being schooled by lechers. Our appetite
for the one called Pitys-another nymph
loved by him, who turned into a pine tree
to escape his overtures,
runs nil to none.

Judith Skillman’s most recent book is “Heat Lightning, New and Selected Poems 1986 – 2006,” Silverfish Review Press. “The Carnival of All or Nothing” is forthcoming from Cervéna Barva Press in March, 2009. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, FIELD, The Southern Review, JAMA, The Iowa Review, The Midwest Quarterly, and numerous other journals and anthologies. She has been a Writer in Residence at Centrum. Please see www.judithskillman.com for more information.

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