Garden of Fingers

The pinky protrudes from snow,
little nail raised like a question mark.
The first—index of music,
keeper of the mouse hole—
slips from dirt.
Triple-jointed, clean-clipped,
ready to anchor that crab
sidling up to the fingerboard.
How renounce the middle one?
Symbol for f, f’ing, m’f, f’er,
an etcetera of notes gone flat
or sharp from lack of practice.
The fourth could still make a d, or g—
if only there were frets.
I kneel before the thumb
buried in its keel of land.
This one holds
the urge to encircle and kill.

Judith Skillman’s recent book is Kafka’s Shadow, Deerbrook Editions. Her work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Shenandoah, Zyzzyva, FIELD, and elsewhere. Awards include an Eric Mathieu King Fund grant from the Academy of American Poets. Skillman has done collaborative translations from French, Portuguese, and Macedonian. Visit

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