in upside-down world,
adults live like toddlers
by Karen Skolfield

Because everything must be tasted, the day starts early.
Long fingers inserted in capricious jaws.
Startling to learn what is part of your body, and who,
the way someone else’s hair can blind you,
here is a hand, it is your hand, you must be quick,
ferocious, you must roar with your thick, dumb tongue.
Though the food comes prepared, it’s all
white and orange.  You live in passive tense.
So sad to learn that couches are for sitting.
Something’s gone wrong with your internal ear,
and you must think: leg, other leg, leg.
Pinwheel of arms.  The long and terrible fall.
Stairs impose a special hazard.  The doorknobs
you may never reach.  Across the street,
the glittery objects beckon.  Tears come easily:
The world so beautiful and your gigantic heart,
how could you not be moved.  Sleep against your will.

by Karen Skolfield

My yard that I love has its own small child.  
She loves the sand pile best, the one
I tell visitors came with the house,
isn’t it an eyesore, but the kid.  I teach her
the words “flick” and “Frisbee.”
“Kayak” she already knew.  There’s one
in my shed turning pink from the light, next to
the wood I can’t use, next to the lawnmower,
next to the two bad ladders.  The neighbors know
my dog’s name and call her as if she’s baked
for them or mowed their yard for free.
After a year in the house I’ve learned
the wildflowers by heart, and I mispronounce
their Latin and study the way leaves clasp
a stem as if the wind might take their ragged hands.
It seems as if everyone but me was born
knowing to hold a child by the wrist instead
of their small, slippery fingers.  The distance
from any sidewalk to the whir of cars is exactly one
Emily long.  The silky birds arrive and line their nests
with the shedding dog’s hair.  The rivers tend
to stay put except for that bit in the spring
and the wet basement rug.  People wave and loan you
tools here.  The saw with the twist of orange ribbon.
Emily can’t seem to paint fast enough,
rainbow to rainbow as if the earth might run
out of rainbows and that thick
belt of light.  There’s so much to know.
Borax to keep out the ants.
When to buy corn.  How to hold a hammer low.
Lefty loosey, and the like.
There’s a whole set of words not to use
around children.  The yard invites a certain amount
of nakedness.  The roof is my next project.
Anything I do for this house makes it better
for the next young owners who will,
most likely, have no money but dream
of where to place the hot tub.  A previous
owner put a heat lamp in the bathroom.  Emily’s
pictures go on the wall.  She has her own version
of butterflies.  Someone planted irises
and oak trees, and this is what we leave behind.

by Karen Skolfield

All day it felt like sunglasses
were on my head.  My hand going up,
stroking my hair in the usual sunglass place.

Then farther back, to the side, down the nape,
where sunglasses could never be, my hand
stubborn and purposeful, sure in its duty,

patting my hair as if I should yield something up,
the sunglasses, maybe a touch of respect,
or love, I think my hand wanted love,

I noticed it lingering again and again
over the same spots, the ponytail,
the side part.  My hand growing

more playful, flirty even, you know
how it is when a woman touches her hair,
I’d always thought it had to do with the person

looking at her but no, now I realize
it’s the courtship of hair and hand,
fingers and scalp, the person looking at her

is simply to bear witness.  It’s ridiculously
windy, my hair is streaming behind,
my hands going up again to the tangle

in hopes that the sunglasses have appeared
and it looks as if I will spend the morning  
squinting at the perfect day for kites.


Karen Skolfield is a freelance magazine writer and an adjunct professor
in the journalism department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  
She is a contributing editor at the literary magazine
Bateau and has had
poems published in
Another Chicago Magazine, Crab Creek Review,
Hollins Critic, The Ledge, Painted Bride Quarterly, West Branch,
and others.

On “Second House, Careful in the Drive”:
The first house I owned by myself was a crazy fixer-upper with the
porch missing and the roof supported by a giant slanted log.  A
dear friend and her daughter moved in with me, and for a year I felt
our lives defined by the house: the gorgeous secluded yard, the
things in the house I would fix, the things I would not, and this little
girl growing up despite the disrepair.

On “Westerlies”:
If you’ve ever taken kids to a playground, you know how deeply
boring it can be.  The kids have a huge play structure.  Adults are
an unnecessary addendum to the day.  And so you stand, wishing
your brain were doing something, anything, and what’s for dinner,
and did you let the dog in, and you walk a little, back and forth,
wishing you knew some of the other bored parents there, and the
wind’s blowing, and it’s too sunny, and did you let the dog in, and
then thank goodness, it’s time to go.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 6, Number 1
(Spring 2011)

Copyright © 2011
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.
Second House,
Careful in the Drive