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  • Opulence, and: Dad Jacket, and: Nature Poem with a Compulsive Attraction to the Shark, and: Sometimes Boyhood, and: Nativity
  • Xandria Phillips (bio)

poetry, centipede, love

poetry, clothing, identity, weather, city

poetry, sharks, sea, slavery

poetry, sexuality, coming of age, gender roles

poetry, gender roles, self-expression, dreaming


      my heaven innardturned to land

      apostled lips

gilding sonnets      I wanted to

claim her

      I was wrongto wander inward

      translucent centipede

trusting head bone      with thistle feet

I too danced

      through hereardrum and sank

      to her feet

stilled to basking      when love leaves

the flesh and becomes      the broth of light [End Page 88]

Dad Jacket

      if this city is still               breaking me      in with its weather              and tethered eye

you be the arch                         in my neckthe mane                              growing from it      and the wind               running through it

with you I be               rampant as a jokeoff a tongue               that's off the clock

      when my master               come as the coldthe wet the leering                              staggering men

I ask I be insulated                              and I ask I be      invisible like a tuber               like a sockgagging on its kin                              in a swell of beige

and you sweat-spent                              and tattered      street smart                           serving second term

fold me in               a new way [End Page 89]

Nature Poem with a Compulsive Attraction to the Shark

      the hive swells outsideas its residents itch to lick our inner walls

      for moisture and respite

from January's cold appendages      nature  having thrummedon its ownblood and grace for millennia

until ours—a short tailored tenurea blip in comparison to the shark

      more ancient than flora      killing only to feed

moving so it will not dieit wants only what the sea has brined

the shark does not know      implication

violence fades to nimbusdepletes blue to red the tides

where pleas parch the lips of tempestthe terror in the land the terror at sea

on the eve of our industrial revolutionmade weapon of hungry thing

I've heard this slavesong before [End Page 90]

boats from across the ocean escortingthese mature predators in swarms

mouths that hungered about

      the taste of slaves

men and the sharks parting at shoreshaking with a taste for each other

turning the word with every tidethe currents lap at my latent limb

every volta America wrote      for me had teeth

      won't you allow me nowto lift my lip and show you mine [End Page 91]

Sometimes Boyhood

hovering their mouths      like two men      moments before   they turn on each other

that is how the grass smells      need between boys      I wanted a love like   when they look

so relieved to be touching      so angry it took so long      too easy to rehearse into fragility   as a boy I couldn't hide

a single soft thing      round with lemon skin      under her shirt   silken folds of fatthe boy thinks

      she is a canal for shame [End Page 92]       where goodness ends   the scent of new blood

a red scout of longing      through private dimension      the boy tables girlhood   and the sweat is good sweat

a flock of braying gestures      shaving september grains      their cunning hunt   for each other's touch

two men sparring      over who could end      the other's suffering first   bliss shame from the body

was I not one of them      disarming a denim ilk      praying his sword would land   amidst my vast acreage [End Page 93]


in the dream where I run without breasts I am motivated by flight, I haven't yet begun to unweld the framework, invent new trauma, whip the stitch arching each bosom as victuals dangled, withheld. when I hemorrhage against design it ain't incognito. the neighbors walk their dogs past me. that's me smoking in the alley, letting roses from my wrists. petal to puddle, a misgendering of matter. these hooves unhinge themselves as tiny meteors to cudgel dusk. I redress the splintering woodwork notched to my likeness, venial beneath the pomme and lilac cornucopic delight. to partake in a gender, to do so as a participant, and to fashion one's self a living process of gender...


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