Devil’s Lake

Fall 2015 Issue

Emily Skaja: Elegy with Black Smoke

Three notes: long, long, short—your call for me. In a prism of light I walk backwards. I see a house turn into a bull turn into a house. I shake myself, wincing. I hold on to the facts. You’ve been dead eighteen years. The house has been torn down for a decade. A man on the mill road stops me for my papers. I don’t say I woke up in a red pond & my arms are made of magnets. Whole cities follow me south. I can’t help it; I drag them behind me. When I’m not careful, worms appear on the road & I waste an entire rainstorm sobbing. I don’t tell anyone the code words stuck to my coat. Without you all the proverbs are halved in my mouth like a stutter. Where there’s smoke there’s. Where there’s smoke.

Aubade with Boundaries

You think you can choose to remember our story however you want it. That you can run up your flag & say True Love Lost & we’re even. Even the whiskey, even the salt we licked from the table won’t return us to our roles of wanted & wanting. In an argument, it is better to be drunk than to be right. When you screamed at me You don’t know everything about me there was snow melting on my hair; we were blackout drunk in a ladies toilet. Black sharpie under the mirror commanded me UNFUCK YOUR HOLE LIFE. I couldn’t stop drying my hands. I was saying I’m sorry but my mouth was obsessed with the word precedent. Girls are taught that adage early: To permit it gives permission. How many implements of shame should I hold against myself? Blight, motherfucker is the introduction of a red bruise down one thigh. Now I’ve learned to say remember like memory is not the axis on which the world shifts & interplanetary garbage is not, like, just drifting. Go back & go back & go back to the beginning is useless. I can’t remember the chemicals for choking roaches & the roaches are everywhere. Orange light slides over the railyard where I watch the workers circle the tracks. They replace one empty traincar with another.

EMILY SKAJA grew up next to a cemetery in northern Illinois. Her poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2015, Blackbird, Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, The Journal, Linebreak, Mid-American Review, PANK, The Pinch, Pleiades, Southern Indiana Review, and Vinyl. She was the winner of the 2015 Gulf Coast Poetry Prize and the winner of The Russell Prize for emerging poets. She was also the recipient of an Academy of American Poets prize and a 2015 AWP Intro Award. Emily is a recent graduate of the Purdue MFA program, and she lives in Ohio, where she is a PhD student in poetry at the University of Cincinnati. More from this issue >