Michael Skau – Three Poems

Despite It All

The trees reluctantly reject their leaves,
Autumn’s chemotherapy, spreading them
on the stale landscape, a crackly quilt, jaundiced
and hectic, tarnished brass, negotiating
with earth in damp and windy terms. Aging,
age-old patterns repeat, repeat the blanched
conversation of degeneration
and doubtful regeneration, despite
millennia of practice. A jagged stump,
pathetic tombstone, marks death with rings, not
names or dates. Drunk as Adam and Eve, hornets
and bees gorge on the cider of bruised apples
at Fall’s bar even as the purpled dusk calls
out closing time, oblivious of the flight
home’s erratic traffic and nighthawk patrols.

Autumn At Ram’s Horn Mountain
The clouds slide by in a hurry, skating past
mountain peaks which tear into their bellies
or shear their undersides before the wind
shoves them on their way, confused and uncertain,
as they drag their ragged hulks across the skies,
twisted and tortured and torn in autumn’s blast.
The pine trees rock like masts in an ocean squall
without a port nearby. Golden aspen
shake their heads in disbelief, wonder if
increasing storms and frigid winds that lift
and lop their locks, then stop and chop again
at will, have any mercy or pity at all.

Coyotes dare to creep in closer in their hunts
to the cabins that they’ve shunned all summer. Elk
drift in to fields they now judge safe to graze,
and only mildly surprised, stop to gaze
at the strength of this new phase of weather. A hawk
eyes the hares and chipmunks while gauging the stormy fronts.


Apparently assembled overnight
following three straight days of mid-spring rain,
a choir of golden dandelions sing
chorus on the yard’s stage, voices of plain children
that startle and thrill in petal purity,
high-pitched tremolo, crowns swaying in brisk
woodwind breeze on a slender leg. Within
days, they will sing the fluff of their coda, with bows
and curtsies, their leaves’ polite applause, before
I shove them off-stage, armed with a shovel’s blade
deep into the ground, but never deep enough
for the full root, and spoil their gaudy exit.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

My poems usually have a whiff of pathos to them. Edgar Allan Poe, in his “The Philosophy of Composition,” states, “Regarding, then, Beauty as my province, . . . the tone of its highest manifestation . . . has shown that this tone is one of sadness. Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones.” I cannot quite surrender to sadness, but my poems, I hope, maintain at least a slight flavor of melancholy.


Michael Skau is an emeritus professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He was named Winner of the 2013 William Kloefkorn Award for Excellence in Poetry, and his collection of poems, Me & God, was published by Wayne State College Press. His chapbook After the Bomb was published by WordTech Editions in 2017.