Two Poems
by KAREN SKOLFIELD
I.
Or Maybe It Was the Name of a Rock Band

Concrete surround of the city, Milwaukee.
On the sidewalk “We found a dead man”
spray painted multiple times, which means
maybe just what it says. Two guys walking
until they noticed the legs frozen
at a wrong angle. Or a set of eyes, unblinking,
fashioned from glass. A face gray-shaded.
The end of a life when the wind goes still.
And the scene was so powerful
that one man’s taken up his spray paint,
unable to shake the image of the dead.
“We found a dead man.”
Not “We saw” or “We noticed,”
“found” lays claim,
a finder’s keepers, an object of value.

We’re here for a wedding, Milwaukee.
It’s hard not to let the dead man in,
think of him just outside the Hilton’s grandness.
A ballroom, a fleur-de-lis, a chandelier, a dead man.
The spray paint words have made him always dead.
Not a man who could have watched the Brewers,
eaten pretzel bread, done something Milwaukee.
Around the Hilton and for blocks,
“We found a dead man.” It’s a wedding.
It’s a sentence in spray paint. Somehow
they’ve managed to hold the dead man briefly
and then pass him to me. When I dance
with him, I realize how clumsy I am
by comparison, how my feet
won’t follow. “We found a dead man.”
Later, we’ll head out of the hotel,
step right over those words.


II.
The Sound Under the Car Can’t Be Good

A wad of plastic bags melted to the exhaust,
better than when I crushed the tricycle
but still it sounds wrong, a dozen tiny hands
slapping the undercarriage as if children were
there, not children in distress, but children
wanting to be noticed. Someone else’s children.
I pull over and they stop. I start
and again, the hands, on the verge of anger,
fists pounding on the door of a person
pretending to be gone. Cold January night.
I could fix this myself, be on my way.
Cherry Hill Golf Course ahead, the only streetlight
flaring sodium pink and I drive slowly,
the hands tiring, the hands giving up hope,
even resting sometimes, children’s hands,
palms that will bruise the next day,
a reminder of a woman trying not to hear.
KAREN SKOLFIELD lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two kids and teaches travel writing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is a contributing editor at the literary magazine Bateau and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Apple Valley Review, Boxcar Poetry Review, PANK, Painted Bride Quarterly, RATTLE, Slipstream, West Branch, and others.