If Anyone Should Fight to Breathe

By Emily Skaja

Issue 113, Summer 2021

June 01, 2021

Courtesy the Library of Congress

It’s him: the two-bit mayor of the dead
flagged against a balustrade, live all night,
the world on fire. Conspiracy, he said.

Reading the retweets, never the thread,
relaxed, imperial in black and white,
it’s him: the two-bit mayor of the dead.

His crown of bones, his genius-heavy head,
he’s Jesus—he can see it—hosed in light,
the world on fire. Conspiracy, he said.

The ashes of the hundred thousands dead
are in the air he tries to breathe. He fights—
it’s him: the two-bit mayor of the dead—

he’s gasping I can’t breathe. FAKE NEWS! he said.
Stand back, stand by, fine people on both sides,
the world on fire. Conspiracy, he said.

He can’t count deaths, he’s counting votes instead.
The biggest hoax you’ve ever seen! He’s right—
it’s him: the two-bit mayor of the dead.
The world on fire. Conspiracy, he said.

Emily Skaja

Emily Skaja was born and raised in rural Illinois. Her first book, BRUTE, won the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. She is the recipient of fellowships from Civitella Ranieri and the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Memphis.