Sunday Apr 14

SchaeferPhilip Philip Schaefer ’s debut collection Bad Summon won the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize from the University of Utah Press and will be released in 2017. He is the author of three chapbooks, two of which were co-written with friend and poet Jeff Whitney. He won the 2016 Meridian Editor’s Prize in poetry and has individual work out or due out in Kenyon Review, Thrush, Guernica, The Cincinnati Review, Birdfeast, Salt Hill, Bat City, Adroit, Nashville Review, and Passages North among others. He tends bar in Missoula, MT.

[Two men are playing chess in a park]

in this one. Give me a shotgun to point
at my foot. I am trying to not say remember
anymore. But remember when we drank
warm wine in the hotel and I taught you
how to move the knight? This is like that.
Two spaces north, one space over
the apartment we used to have a name for.

[I’ve been carving my mug shot]

along the back of my hand for half
an hour, wondering which of me
will talk first. I want you to say
there are dreams worthy
of this growth of being
alone. This gondola for one
and I’m obsessed over what I do
and do not know. The night as hard
as drugs, the animal breathing snow,
breaking down slowly in the blackening
cold. In this one I actually want to feel
a shiver of lightning run up the sky,
my legs. What possesses the wind
to still swim through town? The church
to break out its bell and sound something
similar but not equal to absolution?
Remind me what I’ve become –
a pair of boots left in the garage,
taking on the old and dying
smell of everything around them.
A bird under a tire, the song
spilt from its throat with blood.

[That last month when we broke out]

the Ouija board, you lit votives
on my chest as if it were a river,
as if the sound of wax hardening
could reinterpret my flesh.
At night I often sit in the corner
of our old bedroom, legs in my arms,
imagining a colony of ants
streaming down my face.
I tell myself I am a dormant hive
waiting to be shaken. I let them
crawl. The smart wasp waits and waits
and watches. This one tends to repeat
itself: first I address the darkness
by speaking with my hands. Then
I ask it to rise (I rise), not knowing
how visible we can be without eyes.

[I am dreaming in this one. You wax]

your nails mauve with streaks of teal.
I make a joke about salt water taffy,
anything to keep the polish in the air.
Your toes bend all macaroni like
over the coffee table. You flip
the channel. It’s the most normal
day in existence. Wake up. I can’t.

[I went on a date with a man]

last week. He said my hands
were kaleidoscopic butterflies
and if I broke them apart
someone in India might shiver.
Said the moon’s horoscope
was a deflated basketball
so I laughed. I don’t love
men the way I might or ought
to these days, but you’re dying
in my mind and nowhere near me
do monarchs mimic viceroys.
Or vice versa. Butterflies come
in quick stitches and knives
and public speeches. If only
each version could strip itself
of paint. If only your face were
a lottery ticket I could scratch off
with a penny. I’ve been dreaming
of you since February and here
it is always February. No one
believes in calendars or advent
birds. Months are actually
just the paper legs of insects,
the small wings we used to rub
into disintegration so that everything
we touched would also forget
what it feels like to fly. To know
nothing but air, lung, and song
until the song is a line of static.

Yard Sale
Browning, MT

What’s left to say of the halved trampoline, blood
leaves pooling beneath, the boys who swim
through like rolling whales in their second hand
sweaters, cigarette burns piercing a new constellation
onto their skin. What to say of the tugboat, still
on its lift on the street corner, no hitch, no truck,
only dreams of distant water. And of the dolls
with one eye, their green hair strewn across the lawn
like cave moss. Isn’t this what we pay for? This relic
of loss that gives and gives until it spills cotton out
the stomach. Isn’t this our hidden charm?
That when we’ve said No long enough it will
take form. That every dollar borrowed or stolen
will be a straw, an hour’s release. A piece of glass
to breathe in the ghost. If we’re going all out let’s throw
our bodies on the grass, carve them with dog teeth
and thin syringes until we are more pumpkin
than skin, more hollowed smile, something to light
up inside. If we’re selling something used, let it be
our silence. Let it look like red tape over our lips.