Age of Beauty

Emilia Phillips

This is not an age of beauty,
I say to the Rite-Aid as I pass a knee-high plastic witch
whose speaker-box laugh is tripped by my calf
breaking the invisible line cast by her motion
sensor. My heart believes it is a muscle

of love, so how do I tell it it is a muscle of blood?

This morning, I found myself
awake before my alarm & felt I’d been betrayed

by someone. My sleep is as thin as a paper bill
backed by black bars of coal that iridesce
indigo in the federal reserve of

dreams. Look, I said to the horse’s
head I saw severed & then set on the ground, the soft
tissue of the cheek & crown cleaved with a necropsy
knife until the skull was visible. You look more
horse than the horses

with names & quilted coats in the pasture, grazing unbothered

by your body in pieces, steaming

against the drizzle. You once had a name
that filled your ears like amphitheaters,
that caused an electrical

spark to bead to your brain. My grief was born
in the wrong time, my grief an old soul, grief re-
incarnate. My grief, once a black-winged

beetle. How I find every excuse to indulge it, like a child
given quarters. In the restaurant, eating alone,

instead of interrogating my own
solitude, I’m nearly undone by the old
woman on her own. The window so filthy,

it won’t even reflect her face, which must not be the same
face she sees when she dreams

of herself in the third person.

More by Emilia Phillips

Scar

Sometimes it’s
        bigger than my
              body, the body

that gave it
        life, that is
              its life—as if I’m

a frame for
       it, as if it
              continues beyond

my end, although no
        one, not here,
              can see where

it goes, how
        far, & now
              it finds

its way into
        every possible
              place I

imagine, even
        the past, which believes
              in my scar like

a prophecy, & like a god’s
        work, I have no
              memory of it breathing

into me &
        abstracting me
              to myth from which to

remake the world
        into the rising
              & falling

action of fiction—my body
        as denouement. Sometimes I feel
              it without waiting

for its hum on
        the nerves, its shivering
              arc from eye

to jawbone. How often
        I want to
              give it a voice so

it can tell
        me what I want
              it to say—that it knows

me like tomorrow
        does. That a need lives
              in lack’s because.

Pathetic Fallacy

the sap that I am springtime
               makes me want to reread Virgil’s

Georgics while eating cacio
              e pepe with fresh-shelled

peas this morning over coffee I
              watched a video of spinach

leaves washed of their cellular
              information and bathed in stem

cells until they became miniature
              hearts vascular hopes capable

of want to roll down a hill
              of clover to cold-spoon chrysanthemum

gelato or to stop whenever
              their phones autocorrect gps

to god the sublime is a suspension
              of disbelief the earth has gotten

sentimental this late in the game
              with its smells of gasoline

rosemary and woodsmoke the Rorschach
              of vitiligo on my eyes mouth

and throat the ongoing
              argument between self

and selfhood the recognition
              of the storm the howling

wind I wish I could scream
              into someone else’s rain

 

Related Poems

For the Twentieth Century

Bound, hungry to pluck again from the thousand 
technologies of ecstasy

boundlessness, the world that at a drop of water 
rises without boundaries,

I push the PLAY button:—

. . .Callas, Laurel & Hardy, Szigeti

you are alive again,—

the slow movement of K.218
once again no longer

bland, merely pretty, nearly
banal, as it is

in all but Szigeti's hands

             *

Therefore you and I and Mozart
must thank the Twentieth Century, for

it made you pattern, form
whose infinite

repeatability within matter
defies matter—

Malibran. Henry Irving. The young
Joachim. They are lost, a mountain of


newspaper clippings, become words
not their own words. The art of the performer.