The Fine Art of the Skull

“The Fine Art of the Skull”

by Sam Witt

Everyday I look into my mother’s eyes
I have not seen my mother’s eyes in a long long time
I find that my mother’s eyes are not real enough

who never looked through another’s eyes

& for a short while my hands grow empty.
Mother, your daughter will be a green thread;
look into your hands, worm,

hell was a green place: a green thought.
Candlelight scribbling itself on the walls, orange, pigs. A scream
like candlelight scribbling itself into my head.

In the cracks today I was so certain;
in the spaces that leave a man reading in a green wood,
ear-stopped, his eyes are tunneling his face of blue streams,

He carves himself into the silences, lighting a candle,
it’s warm: his eyes are the eyelits of an immaculate shoe,
the candle plants shoots in his side. What’s a window

doing out here? Committing surgery scalpels
on the air’s ribcage, (O bless me:) wanted to destroy the line.
Wanted nightingale & glassy air: spinelit, eyehole,

that’s my field, tongueling. Wanted my breeze swollen,
swallowed the hero’s silverfish, drowned, my daughter: a cow’s side, slapped
into the memory of meat, the memory of the hair burning, the man

in the wood can’t quite bring her back,
fat stitched to a spine, can’t quite say borrow, entrail, breeze
I took a green to my hero, swallowed, wanted, black:

I have slept in the heat of the sun. The hero’s
green, & soft, & drowned, who would not breathe,
I hear his bubbles exhausting through my nose,

father, featherlisp, troubled skin, teeth,
fall into mine eyes, which lead nowhere, which are hollow,
(I shine,) which hollow, which graft, which sieve.

Today the wind was so alone
it called my name: samuel brown witt is here.
But how do I know that isn’t my own head, lolling

before me on a stalk, all factory,
starthirsty, all the right vibrations of an empty place,
still greenly, the silence that voices thee

mother, I shall set a burning candle in your inner thigh.
The airdust is my shepherd, is my stomach, is my hell;
it’s not a question, hairlip, spider, just two eyes —

dust of a swallow’s speckled eggshell,
I was born to sleep, a gift of green tongues: awake,
among blades of grass I snuffed out, dissolving into this field,

dozing by the lip of a scalding lake,
please, hell was green place, damp hair underfoot
but I forgot, & woke up just now in the scrape

of a shovel, glyphed to an eyelid, the light
silkworming its way through my pores, O flutter,
nothing is ever the same, the cat’s got my guts,

my green hair, my foetal skull:
nine seconds, nine months — the squirrels have carried away my tongue.
See, I have these eyes, pecked away by grackles,

this morning I swallowed spiders by their veins,
picked from the plied siding; tethered to that darkness, I braille the air made dumb:
a man lights his hair on fire, I am feathered to this pain —

I died laughing I fear, and now I can’t stop.

A man lights his hell on fire in a green living room
because it burns. It is really a forest, please,
where are the birds-trill, whistle, & loom.

I died laughing I fear… Once I saw a line of burning trees
& I said daddy, darkly, they were children
set on fire, turning in place in the bright space of leaves.

They were a beautiful hair. They were burn.

Poem originally published in Volt, and collected in Sam Witt’s book Everlasting Quail.

(It was NOT easy copying this whole poem over so I could share it, but Sam Witt is worth the effort. Yes, this is the same poet I wrote about in “Falling in Love with Poets.”)

Silent Sister


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