As water dripping for years lathes stone,
           so words on a mouth, a tongue. Every year I'm made
more suitable for the poem, as the flooded valley
for the flood; the dove, the crumb.
           If you call

the brook river, one terrain erodes & you shovel
           in another. I hear languages I don't
speak like underground rivers above
which I stand, their distant

worming away my footing in the world. Let us
           avoid the theories one language yields
more philosophers than another—or better
kissers for the way a speaker embraces an o
           like a longneck

bottle or rolls rs like coins between their finger
           & thumb just before they're spent. Instead let's say that
in speaking we build a temporary world
over which we roam nomadic, that tent makes a tent
           shape—the pole pitched

& fabric draped in the tongue's
           descent. Because our spines are not
made of bone but breath, which is all we have
to give to the earth, if you look into a word you'll see a shadow
           of a self

           from the wind
                      and the rain
                                  and the sun.





Mornings I wake to one place, and at dusk

another. There are many kinds
of sleep. As a child I believed

sleeping with one's eyes
open was the world

according to John. I called

a ghost, who.
A scarecrow, that.

I wake standing at the window

telling you I don't see
the fire in the street. I wake
standing in red light

as emergency workers carve a woman
out of steel
horseshoed around the sugar

maple. Sometimes I half
expect to peel a clementine

& find nothing inside.

My mother calls to say
my grandmother just walked down
the hall. My grandmother,
dead for years. I do not know

whether to trust my mother

or the ghost's side of the story.
All prophets perform
the miracle

of context. As does light.
As do birds in the morning.



Emilia Phillips is the author of Signaletics (University of Akron Press, 2013) and three chapbooks including Bestiary of Gall (Sundress Publications, 2013) and Beneath the Ice Fish Like Souls Look Alike (Bull City Press, forthcoming in 2014). Her poetry appears in Agni, The Kenyon Review, NarrativePoetry Magazine, and elsewhere. She’s the recipient of the 2012 Poetry Prize from The Journal, 2nd Place in Narrative’s 2012 30 Below Contest, and fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, U.S. Poets in Mexico, and Vermont Studio Center. She is the 2013–2014 Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College, the prose editor for 32 Poems, and a staff member at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.