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Three Poems

A VARIATION Why ask to know, twin and neighbor, if, as it unwinds, the string of our lives has resolution, lies in a direction, why today’s ache was once a noon pleasure. The gods have no plan for us. We

A Habitation of Jackals, a Cou…

Very dark now I put a seed in my mouth but its texture and taste are too unfamiliar! I spit this strange seed out. I do this over and over, forty-five times before understanding I must no longer think of


After the service and reception hour the church is locked, and what was in the air is left to settle out, the hymns and prayers, the candle smoke, the fragrance of flowers, and the last living soul, who checks the

Two Poems

Photographs, 1949 In one, they pose, grinning straight at the Kodak, The backyard elm, long blighted to death, at their backs. It’s years since either parent was alive. How did it happen? Last week, I turned 75. We live our

Ars Poetica Über Prompt (Not …

Take the worst poem you’ve ever written but that you haven’t abandoned or tossed out—it simply doesn’t satisfy you. And no one else thinks much of it either. If it’s long, reduce it to fourteen lines plus three as a

No Heaven for the King

Always in the faintest glow of pleasure, and always at its whim, you take what you can, and love it. As does the king. The rest of it bellows, a dark you fear but can’t take. You’re home, you’ve always


Less monotonous and less abstract than flowing water, even more quick to grow and to change than the young bird we watch every day in its nest in the bushes, fire suggests the desire to change, to speed up the


Go now to the silence. It has longed for you as a mother longs for her ransomed child. Go, and take off your shoes, your gloves, weave from your shadow and ache a rough blanket. Lie down. Your body knows

The Birthdays of the Dead

It is an affront in their land to remind someone of that first exile because they recollect the sojourn with terror still and regret the loss of it.  All those dawns, roads, splinters, whiskies and hard chairs, all that fucking and

The Last of Fanfare

    – By fire, then, but within view of a rough sea? Yes, he said.  And: That’s perfect.  And: Don’t stop.     Clouds moving behind leaves in front moving         Carl Phillips is the author of, most


I was at the beach talking with someone else when he twisted my arm till I heard a crack. That was real.  But last night it was a dream: I’m at my locker when he slams my shoulder hard. Clatter


I was thinking of the sad scentlessness of film, of how everyone in that scene from Charade – where they pass the orange under their nuzzling chins – is dead. xxxxxxxxxxxxxNo wonder the doctors keep ringing us up as meat, covering


Salt and sour bait in the wind, night- crawlers pulsing in a styrofoam cup. I untangle one and bait it. The hooked worm loops around and around itself. I bring you bass strung by their mouths like a bundle of

In a Pile of Pictures

The man—young enough to be my son— held the swaddled child away and high for the camera to catch full moon face. He studied her, she looked to the voice behind the lens, they stopped: the child at twelve weeks,


My grandfather bought a set for his living room, fifty-one imitation-leather-bound volumes billed by Collier & Son as a liberal education distilled to “a five-foot shelf.” He was a university dean — OK, of agriculture — but they looked like