CREATION MYTH CREATION MYTH
In the beginning there was no way to say
in the beginning.There was only the ah!
of those with lice and itches who were happystartled
by the seemingly miraculous
growth of their fingernails, underscored
in dirt. In the beginning
could only be mortared
together by someone who had felt water
running through their fingers in the grammar
of dying words. Death, like all children, grows bored of repetition.
And therefore, inventive: thorns
baked in a farmer’s simple loaf, an elegy written
prematurely so that it becomes a curse.
All language is anachronism, so why not
give the first woman sensible
shoes with laces with which to walk
through the garden.
Birth control. In the beginning of understanding
beginnings, there were no prepositions
so that whatever was in
whatever else was whatever else.
In this way, the water was
fish. The sky birds. Even some eyes
were the sun
until they beetled up. There was never one
man to name the animals. Only a man
to name the man to name
the animals. Even now I speak with his
* * *
MY MOTHER CONFESSED I WAS CONCEIVED TO RAVEL’S “BOLÉRO”
And so began the formality
of my embarrassment. The nightly
polishing of the borrowed brass
buttons that open & close
my heart like a soldier’s
jacket. In time, I learned
how to tie the bluesilk
ampersand (under, over, & in)
at my throat, just below the absence
where a crabapple would have
bobbed if I had swallowed
one it in the womb. Now
I wear white gloves when attending
to my worry’s tripleting:
what if what if what if—
I am made of a man who took himself
too seriously, whose naked chest
was an advertisement
for undershirts, & of a woman
who made him a season,
only to despise his storms.
If I had been a boy, my name
would have been Alexander.
(If I had been a boy, my father would’ve excused my behavior.)
Sometimes I fool myself
into believing my eyelids crash
like cymbals when I refuse to
look dead in the mirror, silkblue
in the seemly dawn. Sometimes
I imagine myself with a third leg, pantomimed
with the butt of a rifle, so I can dance
properly in time to the murmured 3/4.
* * *
In a time before wars
there were wars
as there were
were too many
& not enough
birds because the wars
we needed & the wars
which have never favored
or the diplomacy
of distance, a borderless
country in which
is no such thing
not when men make
of their hands calluses.
* * *
Emilia Phillips (she/her/hers) is the author of three poetry collections from the University of Akron Press, most recently Empty Clip (2018), and four chapbooks, including Hemlock (Diode Editions, 2019). Winner of a 2019 Pushcart Prize, Phillips’s poems, lyric memoirs, and poetry reviews appear widely in literary publications including Agni, American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, The New York Times, Ploughshares,Poetry, and elsewhere. She’s an assistant professor in the MFA Writing Program and the Department of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.