No One Speaks of How Tendrils Feed on the Fruits

                                                no one speaks of how tendrils feed on the fruits

                        of my demise     these dead hands                  for instance     that alight                phlox

wild strawberry                 and pine             this is my body out of context       rotting in the                wrong hemisphere         

   I died                     so all my enemies would tremble at my murmur                  how it                      populates their homes     

                              so I could say to the nearest fellow dead person        I know more than

      all my living  foes                  I’ve derived sun-fed  design                             for once                             from

                    closing my oak eyes                           now they’ll never snare the civilian

                                                                     pullulating my throat

More by Xandria Phillips

Want Could Kill Me

for Dominique

I know this

 

from looking

                          into store fronts

 

                          taste buds voguing

alight from the way

 

treasure glows

                          when I imagine
 

                          pressing its opulence

into your hand

 

I want to buy you

                          a cobalt velvet couch

 

                          all your haters’ teeth

strung up like pearls

 

a cannabis vineyard

                          and plane tickets

 

                          to every island

on earth

 

but my pockets

                          are filled with

 

                          lint and love alone

touch these inanimate gods

 

to my eyelids

                          when you kiss me

 

                          linen leather

gator skin silk

 

satin lace onyx

                          marble gold ferns

 

                          leopard crystal

sandalwood mink

 

pearl stiletto

                          matte nails and plush

 

                          lips glossed

in my 90s baby saliva

 

pour the glitter

                          over my bare skin

 

                          I want a lavish life

us in the crook

 

of a hammock

                          incensed by romance

 

                          the bowerbird will

forgo rest and meals

 

so he may prim

                          and anticipate amenity

 

                          for his singing lover

call me a gaunt bird

 

a keeper of altars

                          shrines to the tactile

 

                          how they shine for you

fold your wings

 

around my shoulders

                          promise me that

 

                          should I drown

in want-made waste

 

the dress I sink in

                          will be exquisite

Social Death, an Address

I write to you from the predicament of Blackness.

You see, I’ve been here all my life and found,

on the atomic level, it’s impossible to walk through

most doorways. I can, however, move through

walls. I write to you from the empty seat that isn’t

empty. I write to you when a feel is copped.

I write myself out of bed. I write to you as the spook

who sat by the door. I write to you from Olivia

Pope’s apolitical mouth. I am here because I could

never get the hang of body death, though it has been

presented to me like one would offer a roofied cocktail

or high-interest loan. I am only here because I started

eating again. I am only here because I am ineligible

to exist otherwise. I’m only here because I left and

returned through an Atlantic wormhole. I write to you as

the American version of me. In the American version,

Orpheus’ lyre is a gun. Eurydice thinks of doctors,

or, rather a cold hand. It feels like one is sliding its sterile

nails over the curtains of her womb. Once, a healer’s hands

passed through my flesh, and I went on trial for stealing

ten fingers. When my spoon scrapes the bottom of a bowl

it sounds like a choir of siblings naming stars after their favorite

meals. Physicists are classifying new matters and energies

every day. Dark matter, Black flesh are in high demand,

and we never see a penny. I urge you. If you see a sister

walk through walls or survive the un-survivable, sip your

drink and learn to forget or love the taxed apparition before you.

Edmonia Lewis and I Weather the Storm

The places where Edmonia’s bones were fractured still hold violent reverberations. When it rains I massage the static hum out of each point of impact. There is nothing heavier than flesh that wishes to be on another axis, except perhaps stone she shaped. Tonight she tells me, it’s impossible to bring a lover to the small death she deserves. An orgasm is excavated, never given. She takes my face in her hands without permission. I take her waist with care not to treat her like a healing thing. My fear winnows. She is digging me out of my misery with her fugitive hands. No one has ever led me out of myself the way she does when we move as though the species depends on our pleasure. She makes a pocket of me until I cry. I’ve seen that field, the site of her breaking, in the empty parking lot I cut through to class. There is nothing left for us to forge in Oberlin, and still we remain, Edmonia a sentient rock, swallowing her own feet in want of motion. We fit on this twin sized bed only by entanglement. We survive here by the brine of our brutish blood.

Related Poems

Doppler Effect

Stopped in cars, we are waiting to accelerate
along different trajectories. I catch the rising

pitch of a train—today one hundred nine people
died in a stampede converging at a bridge;

radioactive water trickles underground
toward the Pacific Ocean; nickel and copper

particulates contaminate the Brocade River.
Will this planet sustain ten billion people?

Ah, switch it: a spider plant leans toward
a glass door, and six offshoots dangle from it;

the more I fingered the clay slab into a bowl,
the more misshapen it became; though I have

botched this, bungled that, the errancies
reveal it would not be better if things happened

just as I wished; a puffer fish inflates on deck;
a burst of burnt rubber rises from pavement.

The Brilliant Fragments

To kneel by the cochineal
head of the dead.

Fragments—grammar
broken along the way.

I tell you the birds
dropped at my feet,

            eleven of them, sucked
            out of the sky, whole.

I return home.
I report the details.

The men who attempt
to control animals

tell me to bag each one,
though I am afraid

to touch their bright
stillness—

            the blank eyes
            in their blank heads.

            It is all wrong,

as are the chemical clouds
drifting from the fields

where the cows make
us milk and meat.

The sunsets beautifully hued:
oozy pink, infected apricot.

            Day after day of wrong color.

And then farm trucks encircle
the town and spray

a silver-white fog
to neutralize the air.

Twinkling stitched
to the sky

            like ghosts
            beading the wind.

Letter to Someone Living Fifty Years from Now

Most likely, you think we hated the elephant,
the golden toad, the thylacine and all variations
of whale harpooned or hacked into extinction.

It must seem like we sought to leave you nothing
but benzene, mercury, the stomachs
of seagulls rippled with jet fuel and plastic. 

You probably doubt that we were capable of joy,
but I assure you we were.

We still had the night sky back then,
and like our ancestors, we admired
its illuminated doodles
of scorpion outlines and upside-down ladles.

Absolutely, there were some forests left!
Absolutely, we still had some lakes!

I’m saying, it wasn’t all lead paint and sulfur dioxide.
There were bees back then, and they pollinated
a euphoria of flowers so we might
contemplate the great mysteries and finally ask,
“Hey guys, what’s transcendence?”   

And then all the bees were dead.