Three Poems by Emilia Phillips

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  • July 22, 2019

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

vestigial tongue.

 

 

* * *

 

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.

 

 

* * *

 

GOLDEN AGE

 

 

In a time before wars

there were wars

 

elsewhere, just

as there were

rotting mulberries

 

because there

were too many

& not enough

 

birds because the wars

we needed & the wars

were boredoms

 

which have never favored

speechless others

 

or the diplomacy

of distance, a borderless

 

country in which

arrowshafts

are quickchanged

currency. There

 

is no such thing

as allegory,

 

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.