Emilia Phillips

 If You Wanna Make Sense Watcha Lookin at Me For

on old muscle relaxers my head’s 
            as if my thoughts were

burrs in a lamb’s unwashed 
      fleece   my 
            heart’s spun

cotton   the plumber calls my 
      dishwasher she
            and pats her broad side

like the flank of a beloved 
            I downloaded

an app that allows me to wake 
      up to bird 
            song of my own

choosing   brown creeper 
            warbler   white-throated

sparrow   but I curse 
      the winged 
            things that stalk my window

little synesthetes that scream 
      sun sun   the 
            neighbor who blames us

for her dog barking has a wild 
      rose I want to 
            dig up in the night and remove

to my dreams   after carrying boxes 
      up and down 
            the stairs my back seizes

like that monkfish I pan-fried 
      too long until 
            it writhed and flipped in the pan

the dead rise again I thought 
      and wondered how 
            I could ever trust myself with leaving

this earth without leaving 
      the eye on 
            and burning the whole place down



Some days I want to sit in my sadness 
      like a parked car, engine still

hot but breathing, waiting for 
      a song to end. But some never

do. I suppose I’ll 
            die with someone else’s lyrics 
on my lips—something catchy 
                       but shallow like 
                                               do you believe

                                 in life after love?
                                            or      move 
                                            that big ass ‘round so I can work

                       on that zipper, bay-bee—
                                   and want to go out

that way. When there’s joy 
      sitting in me

like some impossible
      watermelon from an accidentally

swallowed seed, I know 
            I’m just forgetting

                       something. On route 15, 
there’s a barn called Gateway 
                                     Candyland & Liquors,

        and despite myself
                    I trust a place with an honest

name. Sometimes I want to crush

      my joy like a bummed 
          smoke I shouldn’t have 
          even had
under my heel. I can keep

                       a crush tended for years 
unseen like a lantern 
            with all its panes

                                 boot-blacked out. Among the bins 
                     of sugar, and their dull musical 
                               spill into sacks, the shelves of flavored vodkas 
                                          and blue curaçao,

            they must have a Moonpie, 
                   that featherbed

of marshmallow and graham-flavored 
            sponge coated

in starched chocolate.     Yes, I belong to my excesses, 
me with this jukebox
                      for a heart, and still 
                                  —yes, still— 
            that kiss once

            on the dancefloor of Allen Gold’s, sweat and slick 
melted Jell-O 
            shots. Beyond

      absolutes, everything 
            or nothing, neither

all nor none of what I am— 
       her teeth got in the way.



Emilia Phillips is the author of two poetry collections from the University of Akron Press, Signaletics (2013) and Groundspeed (2016), and three chapbooks, most recently Beneath the Ice Fish Like Souls Look Alike (Bull City Press, 2015). Her poems and lyric essays appear widely in literary publications including Agni, Boston Review, 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. Her third book, Empty Clip, will be published by the University of Akron Press Spring 2018.