Field of Skulls

By Mary Karr b. 1955 Mary Karr
Stare hard enough at the fabric of night,   
and if you're predisposed to dark—let’s say   
the window you’ve picked is a black
postage stamp you spend hours at,
sleepless, drinking gin after the I Love   
Lucy reruns have gone off—stare

like your eyes have force, and behind
any night’s taut scrim will come the forms   
you expect pressing from the other side.   
For you: a field of skulls, angled jaws
and eye-sockets, a zillion scooped-out crania.   
They’re plain once you think to look.

You know such fields exist, for criminals
roam your very block, and even history lists   
monsters like Adolf and Uncle Joe
who stalk the earth’s orb, plus minor baby-eaters   
unidentified, probably in your very midst. Perhaps   
that disgruntled mail clerk from your job

has already scratched your name on a bullet—that’s him   
rustling in the azaleas. You caress the thought,
for it proves there’s no better spot for you
than here, your square-yard of chintz sofa, hearing   
the bad news piped steady from your head. The night   
is black. You stare and furious stare,

confident there are no gods out there. In this way,   
you’re blind to your own eye’s intricate machine   
and to the light it sees by, to the luck of birth and all   
your remembered loves. If the skulls are there—
let’s say they do press toward you
against night’s scrim—could they not stare
with slack jawed envy at the fine flesh
that covers your scalp, the numbered hairs,   
at the force your hands hold?

Mary Karr, “Field of Skulls” from Viper Rum. Copyright © 1998 by Mary Karr. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: The Devil's Tour (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1993)

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Poet Mary Karr b. 1955

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Horror, Religion, Mythology & Folklore

 Mary  Karr

Biography

Poet and memoirist Mary Karr was born in 1955 and raised in Texas. The author of several critically acclaimed books of poetry, including Abacus (1987; reprinted 2007), The Devil’s Tour (1993), Viper Rum (2001), and Sinners Welcome (2006) she is also the author of a trilogy of memoirs: The Liar’s Club (1995), Cherry (2001), and Lit (2009). Karr’s poetry and prose frequently include autobiographical elements, including her . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Horror, Religion, Mythology & Folklore

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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