Coal Bin

Some witchy and slinky,

ready to coo on a pillow,


others nun-like, eyes open

with the wonder of a startled


sleepwalker—all bluntly bare.

My uncle stashed his harem


of goddess statues

in our coal bin


where I caught him

at the casement,


turning his bronze minxes

and virgins this way


and that, as innocent

as the slow boy next door


who spun a huge top

by a string above his lap


as he sang the hymn

about shepherds and sheep


on that street that was less

pasture and more tray


of ashes stubbed out

by the hand of the lord.



John Skoyles has published four books of poems, A Little Faith; Permanent Change; Definition of the Soul, and most recently, The Situation. His work has appeared in Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, Harvard Review, Slate, Yale Review and The Poetry Anthology, 1912 – 2002, among others. He teaches at Emerson College and serves as the poetry editor of Ploughshares.  The Permanent Press will publish his autobiographical novel, A Moveable Famine, in 2014.

Issue #24 June 2013
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