Poetry Sunday: “How Attractive, then, the Nightmare Skeleton,” by Elizabeth Murawksi


How Attractive, then, the Nightmare Skeleton

The walls are green, the linoleum red.
A rabbit hole of dread. A whiff

of cauldron. I thought to get away,
but here they are again, one

on each shoulder. I taste the grass.
I let them win, but I am somewhere

else, south to their north, east
to their west, a threat to no one

but myself, growing smaller
by the nanosecond. I am approaching

zygote size, annihilation.
How attractive, then, the nightmare

skeleton, door to door Fred Astaire
crooking one long calcium finger

like an engraved
invitation to the dance.


First published in Mississippi Review.


Elizabeth Murawksi is the author of Zorba’s Daughter, winner of the May Swenson Poetry Award; Moon and Mercury, winner of the Washington Writers’ Publishing House competition; and two chapbooks, Troubled by an Angel and Out-patients. Zorba’s Daughter may be purchased here. Nearly three hundred of her poems have been published in journals or online. Recognitions include the Gabriela Mistral Poetry Prize (2016), the University of Canberra’s International Poetry Prize (2015), the Mudfish 11 Prize (2011), the Phyllis Smart-Young Prize (2011), Shenandoah’s Graybeal-Gowen Award (2011), the Ann Stanford Poetry Prize (2006), and ten Pushcart Prize nominations.

Born and raised in Chicago, an alumna of DePaul University, Murawski earned an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University. She has received grants from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, a residency from the Achill Heinrich Boll Association, and a Hawthornden Fellowship. Employed 28 years as a training specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau before retiring in 2005, she has conducted poetry workshops as an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia (Falls Church campus) and Johns Hopkins University (Washington Center). She currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia. [Author photo: Janette Ogle.] 


Poet’s Note

When the nightmare skeleton showed up, I was maybe eight or nine. He had elegance and dazzle, and terrified. There was no place but home.

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