Leigh Phillips is an Assistant Professor of English at Hostos
Community College with the City University of New York. Her stories,
memoirs, poems and criticism most recently appeared in Rhino, So to
Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art, and A Face to Meet the
Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry, edited by Stacey
Lynn Brown and Oliver de la Paz. She is currently writing an epistolary
novel in verse, generously funded by a grant from the City University
of New York Research Foundation.
I measure the distance between losses as green roadway signs account for a clock's past participle. I measure the distance between miles as heartbeats break time against a rib fracture. Maybelline should make a shade of bruise called "Climbing out of Anemia." Phones don't have dial tones anymore but I like to pretend mine does. I scream into a receiver when I am not received: usually, not if, never. The rain calls for madness and I'm crawling for a bruise from doorknobs blown wild in wind when I've yet to win a piecemeal sunset. Often, Every. Sunset: I thought you might have named me birth. This town, littered with bars without a drinker. There will always be a bar, with or without a night. Midnight licks the lack. Don't ever hide your sadness, morning said before trying to fix me with presence. Excess is the answer to echo, she turned the volume up and played a song called "Now Not Alone, Girl." Usually. If Only. Now. I'm leaving now. There is an alarm that rings in every suitcase and I'm trying to shut the mouths of each. The rain has a mouth and it lip syncs the story of a father who forgot how to love the daughter with the face like an ex. Today I sat on a blue sky and gazed into the umbrella flatbed of a large gray stone. When thunder happened, soil fell down into my eyelashes. I'd like to talk about girls with gorgeous back tattoos but I don't know any. I'd like to talk about how I held eye contact with a fox and he pulled my floodwater home for flesh to rest. I'd like to talk about the cigarettes I haven't smoked since she left. There is an address I'd like to recite, but I just forgot the zip code. I don't need to mark a moment anymore. It is written in the road. It smells like the wrists of blue-haired women, gone sixty. Breastbone splintered into a mass of minutes. How we multiply. How it all adds up.
Lines and Hooks
Yesterday was a bird with a beak like a stem. How beautiful her backside, shimmer as an oil spill takes to flight and gone. If gasoline rainbows could be worn in the body like accessories to the black, "I am here, will you watch me jack?" The girl with the body like a birthday candle burns lifelines back to palm. I mail her a psalm from the part-time heart that is best pinned to the clothesline. Then there is the girl you try to take to the carnival. She unpacks her chest and drops all the deaths to swim for themselves in the Chenango, the years of donating touch to anyone who asked. Grandma was the first to go. Doves should only be sold together and die in pairs. I am a blackbird who wants to be a dove but really I'm the brown eye of a dog and I'm trying to tell you something. Grandpa circled the apartment for nearly two years, fingering her sweaters until Hospice, until the 21 guns, each with a scar for a mouth like "hello". I have a scar for a mouth like halo. The dog cowers and looks at the leash dragging her forward when she wants to just lie still. My mother's glow swallowed itself into a hospital room I was nowhere near. Only shoulders know how to properly wear the rain. "Where did you go just now," a lover asks. They always ask, except for when they're not asking. Don't ask. I mean, ask. I believe there are Gods here and they're willing to turn around. I believe the house fire knows how to subtract in a different way. When I get root canals, I close my eyes and think of that field of infinite tenderness we dug with our eyes, gentle as the brown of dogs. I have a passport that is good for a decade and with it, I leave the Republic of Sadness on the Face of Water. The moon is a pale call girl. I am the moon. For 300$, I will place your hand on my heart. For 600$, I will place my heart on my own.
The Hottest Stars are Blue
A 40 mile per hour wind will pry my blue body loose from the ledge of its own hangover, blast back the brain cells, track the train back to the homepage of my protostar, burst back stars extinguished in white dwarf death in cosmos. I'm the child of a red giant who has lost her legs in a wormhole. I am traveling at the speed of dark. Are we allowed to be broken in poems? Nothing escapes a black hole, not even light verse. Published men advise against standing in the center of language in a slip. Through it, you can see my varicose lightning, the electric tree. Rubbing a stick to stick will spark the dry forest, my desert disco, my Mojave. At night I cool considerably. My breath is a turquoise stone I polish after I've unpeeled my Sunday face. Each morning, I recycle the cans so I can forget where I've been, backburner the breadcrumbs, body the bleach, white out the inner eyelid, light as a drowned thigh. These legs are rails and I carry the current of an invisible third. My mirrors are the static of an unknown frequency. There is a me inside of me, a baby that blooms bouquets in the throat. I could be a song. I could be the song, if only I could (5,500 degrees Celsius) only if I could (32.6 light years) only I (brightness measured in magnitude) could (The helium core runs out) let it, (and the outer layers drift of away from the core as a gaseous shell) stop, (the core eventually cools and dims). There is a sunset streaming satellite underneath my—when it stops shining, the now dead star is called a—I laugh like sunrise. I kill the night.
The Central Dogma
In Brooklyn, the fog of heat unfolds the streets like magnolia petals shed themselves on the backside of an only child. As a child, I made mud pies. What to do with a mud pie, other than breathe it back, offer it your loose hangnail, spit, a spare hair, DNA drifting dust like symphonies? There is a set of strings in each of us, coils, curled, fingerprints on the inside, and we leave them in hotel rooms, and we leave them in the beds of lovers, and we are laced with this proof of ourselves, the song of cells. We are the slow slant of a red giant burn to black dwarf, the breasts of stars, the deaths of stars, the stars in thighs, ever widening. Our wrist veins are the harp string sky. In the age of cassettes, sometimes you'd hear the previous recording pushing through the current of speech. Who was the ghost and who was the angel? Our perfections grace the abandoned storefront and we are translucent. I love my twin, with her malformed edges turning shoulder into liquid. I wear my dead grandmother, her sister's face, my mother, and I'm not sure which one of us is happy. Whatever we were, we are. As a child, I climbed the ladder of my double helix to this page. Today, I found an eyelash in my ex-partner's Epistemology of the Closet. Is it embarrassing to admit I'm related to Ulysses S. Grant, and if I tell you, will you ask me about the want of drink that is hemmed into my jawline? I am silvering. The women in my family turn to water in times of crisis. I love leaning over the lake, seeing their faces gather into mine, kiss the surface, break. A silverfish is neither silver, nor a fish, though I'd like to believe when we evolved from fish, we wore our skins like mirrors, and the alphabets inside ourselves, glimmered on the precipice of word. The body is a book of myths. In it, I keep the pressed orchards of our tongues.
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