Ellen Skilton

STRAW BY STRAW

Take your cue from the bluebirds, who have no faith in the future but who build the future nevertheless, leaf by leaf and straw by straw. 

                   —Margaret Renkl, “What to Do with Spring’s Wild Joy in a Burning World”

There are metal barriers 
called ‘hedgehogs’ being built 
to stop tanks in war-torn Ukraine.
Artists are soldering steel to protect 
bodies instead of making art for inspiration. 
We must make things —
most of all, mistakes. 

             Also, friends and enemies, love and
             war, cups of tea and pots of soup.
             Forging, shaping, building, creating. 

I used to have an artist boyfriend
whose father’s company made springs.

             The question was: what is worthy
             of making? Poems, paintings, bridges,
             machines, babies, jokes, money. 

My family includes farmers, 
postal workers, and pottery-makers. 

             Growing food, sorting mail, shaping
             and making things that can be held,
             objects to make daily life happen.

Like the bluebird, I gather straw
despite despair, write odes to joy 
in a burning world that wonders:
what is the worth of birdsong 
unless we can eat their wings? 

Ellen Skilton is a professor of education whose creative writing has appeared in The Dewdrop, Cathexis Northwest Press, Quartet, The Scapegoat Review, Dissident Voice, Philadelphia Stories, and The Dillydoun Review. In addition to being a poet, she is an educational anthropologist, an applied linguist, and a Fringe Fest performer. Currently completing her MFA in Creative Writing at Arcadia University, she is also an excellent napper, a chocolate snob, and a swimmer, and she lives in Philadelphia with a dog named Zoomer, a cat named Katniss, and some lovely humans.