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Patrick Phillips

Patrick Phillips was born in 1970 in Atlanta and raised in the Appalachian foothills of north Georgia. He attended Tufts University, and earned an MFA in Poetry at the University of Maryland, as well as a PhD in English Literature at New York University.

He is the author of three collections of poetry: Elegy for a Broken Machine (Knopf, 2015), Boy (University of Georgia Press, 2008), and Chattahoochee (University of Arkansas Press, 2004).

Phillips was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Copenhagen's Centre for Translation Studies, where he began translating When We Leave Each Other: Selected Poems of Henrik Nordbrandt (Open Letter, 2013), which won the Translation Prize of the American Scandinavian Foundation.

His other honors include the Kate Tufts Discovery Award from Claremont Graduate University, a Discovery/The Nation Prize from the 92nd Street Y, a Pushcart Prize, the Lyric Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

He currently teaches at Drew University and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Elegy for a Broken Machine (Knopf, 2015)
Boy (University of Georgia Press, 2008)
Chattahoochee (University of Arkansas Press, 2004).

Patrick Phillips
Photo credit: Marion Ettlinger

By This Poet


Sunset Park

The Chinese truck driver
throws the rope
like a lasso, with a practiced flick,

over the load:
where it hovers an instant,
then arcs like a willow

into the waiting,
gloved hand
of his brother.

What does it matter
that, sitting in traffic,
I glanced out the window

and found them that way?
So lean and sleek-muscled
in their sweat-stiffened t-shirts:

offloading the pallets
just so they can load up
again in the morning,

and so on,
and so forth
forever like that—

like Sisyphus
I might tell them
if I spoke Mandarin,

or had a Marlboro to offer,
or thought for a minute
they’d believe it

when I say that I know
how it feels
to break your own

back for a living.
Then again,
what’s the difference?

When every light
for a mile turns
green all at once,

no matter how much
I might like
to keep watching

the older one squint
and blow smoke
through his nose?

Something like sadness,
like joy, like a sudden
love for my life,

and for the body
in which I have lived it,
overtaking me all at once,

as a bus driver honks
and the setting
sun glints, so bright

off a windshield
I wince and look back
and it’s gone.


The truth is that I fall in love
so easily because

it's easy.
It happens

a dozen times some days.
I've lived whole lives,

had children,
grown old, and died

in the arms of other women
in no more time

than it takes the 2-train
to get from City Hall to Brooklyn,

which brings me back
to you: the only one

I fall in love with
at least once every day—

not because
there are no other
lovely women in the world,
but because each time,

dying in their arms,
I call your name.

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