EMILIA PHILLIPS


THE BRIGHT OBVIOUS

After Fukushima, my father in Kandahar
had shipped to me a box of paper

masks and a bottle of res-
veratrol, a compound found in Japanese
knotweed and grape skins that mends

wrecked cells from the glottis to funny

bone scales. The repair must go something
like folding fitted sheets—
                                             impossible!

Though a friend says it works if you don’t care
how it looks on the inside: (cell wall

gathering like elastic, the cotton of nucleus and curio
material, air.) My dog has a tumor

inside her nose that was supposed to kill her
two years ago but has only made her snore.

In Dorian, Wilde wrote: What is Art?
–A malady.
                Last night, my neighbor’s father,
a missionary to Uganda, puffed his cigar
on the deck that connects to ours. We all have
cancer
, he told me. It’s just a matter

of where. I expected him to say the same holds true
for faith. But he only looked out at the yard,
at the grass that won’t grow but stays
seed and mud, and puffed. Each time I go to

the doctor, he examines the mole
on my cheek and I feel a tingle as if something’s
on the move—
                 the brown Protean lump

changing because he looked and, still, he looks,
taking my chin into his hands as if he would
kiss me, like Brutus,
                —and kiss me in.
 
 
 
 
CARTOGRAPHY IN ABSTENTIA

The friend you seldom see becomes stranger
when you remember him
as you are together lunching
in late summer on the sidewalk outside
a café in the delible shade
of an umbrella that, slimming, urges you closer
together in your uncomfortable chairs,
as if the clement

course of acquaintance is like a river changing

its bearing by flooding its banks
and spreading over the flatlands to fill
the shy valleys so that

it forgets itself, and looking out

across the surface
of its waters, it cannot
tell what, if any part, was among its first
current, and neither can it remember
where it grooved to start, and so,
drying up, pinches away oxbows

of this one time and once,
and leaves them for good.

And in the minute which is too
long to hold
a camera on you paused at the azalea
in the cemetery

where you walked,
you couldn’t

map it among his motives,
a friend like an uninhabited momentum, ending
just beyond the edge
of the world.

And if you stop now and hold back

memory and say No more for the moment
before spinning your life like a globe of wildly colored
countries and continents that once
existed in one patchwork, closing
your eyes and holding your finger above
the blurred sphere

until the moment, by chance,
you choose to make land on a past
instance, ask yourself:

What memories had I then?
—Can you know?

You can say this happened and this happened
and this, this. But it doesn’t add up
to the whole just as the shadow and the light
doesn’t add up to the sun,

or, it erodes
if you try to trace the long shore of it,
which is why you avoid each other’s eyes,
rebuilding, as you must,
your flooded towns

of knowledge into small talk and small
bites and, finally, a quick goodbye.

And anyway, memory is not a globe—
though it spins and turns and turns
away and back again

so that no matter which way you leave
the sunny café, parting
or not, you’re always going dizzily
toward an edge.
 
 
 
 



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