Back to Issue Thirty-Eight

Book X



The cypresses reached the clouds. The clouds ran
like stockings. The cypresses seemed
to woodfeather the roof
of my mouth when I was elsewhere
benerved. What I called my pleasure:
Elsewhere here. Her mouth
on me: tangerine pulp. Words came
as ants synapsing to syrup. Each,
inadequate. Each, everything. She gave me
her tongue. She gave me a way
to refuse and a way to yes the world
in brisk barter. She gave me the sweetmeats
of power surrendered
and power offered. The Garden was prolific
in wild invasives. Yes, in knowledge—
I made a kudzu rope
to bind my wrists
to my desire
and to unbind my future
from a pluperfect past. The tense
present in I am without I am.
I believe in God as a knot
that knows how to untie itself.
From this new knowledge, a secret fruited
known as a bruise
to thumb the touch apparent.



Book VII



Of nakedness I was never
ashamed. Of shame I was never
naked. I never sought
the figtree’s shadow
or its briefleaf. Adam clothed me
in want when I refused
his bodygrief. And when he had me
(I knew my duty)
he clothed me
in a cloak of dried bees,
stinger-stitched. I was a Christmas
cactus, my blood bright
flowering. My desert-making
want evaporated
from my tongue as if.
As if my teeth could flint
heavens from earth,
water from land,
woman from man,
woman from woman.
Don’t think the Garden
was perfect. My feet were callused
there just the same
as the cast-out lands.
Thorns always pricked.
(I was lonely.)
From his teeth
Adam fishboned meat.


Emilia Phillips (they/she) is the author of four poetry collections from the University of Akron Press, including Embouchure (2021), and four chapbooks. Winner of a 2019 Pushcart Prize and a 2019–2020 NC Arts Council Fellowship, Phillips’s poems, lyric essays, and book reviews appear widely in literary publications including Agni, American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, The New York Times, Ploughshares, Poetry, and elsewhere. She’s a faculty member in the MFA Writing Program and the Department of English and cross-appointed faculty in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at UNC Greensboro.

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