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Philip Schaefer



Last summer my wife flew back to the Midwest for a long trip to visit family. I was alone in a mountain town with a dog and a hangover, where the nursed melodrama felt genuine. I sunk my teeth deeply into what would happen if this situation were permanent, as is the case for so many. I listened to the Magnetic Fields and took long naps on the picnic table in our backyard. This series bathes in loss. The anaphoric phrase in this one tries to tether together a sense of holding on, as each poem opens a vignette of some shared past experience.


from [Hideous] Miraculous…




[Yesterday I found myself awake]


in the shower with my shirt on,

searching for my breast bone

like a doorknob in a hallway

that doesn’t exist. In this one

I am learning how to say sponge

without moving a muscle.

I contemplate what it means

to twitch. Contemplate which

Dakota I’d rather live in, having

never been. You told me

the Midwest was like two dogs

greeting each other. I don’t understand

anything without distance. In this way

I am like you: greedy, not sorry.



[In this one we aren’t exactly drowning]


but we are falling through water.

Quieter than we expect. Churning

is how we’ll later describe it.

Our arms dig out two wet Cs,

a heart if you want to look at it

that way. Though the body is always

in between – that unoriginal arrow.



[In this one you haven’t left]


and the lilacs aren’t devastating.

Fact: I’m being dramatic. A knife

undresses butter in my good hand

and I have that. I nibble on a biscuit,

tell myself I’m attractive, biting

the corners of my mouth

with the crumbles. Taste blood.



[A swarm of neighborhood dogs]


around the corner over a boy

on a bicycle. His legs electrical

fans, all cylinder and gear. I strike

and throw matches into a bucket

on the porch, the smell of science

going warm and black on my fingers.

I’m not mentioning you in this one.

I’ve written a declaration of independence

on the bathroom mirror. Your dark

crimson lipstick worn like graffiti

on my pants, my socks, which

I’m pulling up over my shins

like excess skin. Sometimes

it’s necessary for one people

to dissolve. Sometimes

we shed our names.



[In this one you are taking the creek]


to your mouth, through your hair.

You want to rinse yourself

of last night’s fire and I should

have known this would become

a foreshadowing moment.

We spent the night with the night

as if the stars were still neon

stickers glued to the bedroom

ceiling. The wind did something

through the sleeping bag and I felt

the smooth jazz of your left thigh

and by god I wanted you to smile,

to sigh out a small yes

between your legs.


[This the one holding a mug over]


the other ones like a goddamn match

being licked out by cupped darkness.

It’s all I can do to not be wild. Turns out

our friends were mostly your friends.

I pinch the useless skin between

my eyes, waiting for the pressure

to say something. It never does.

I talk out loud to the mirror. Press

my cheek to it. I am hideous,

miraculous. I misquote Oscar Wilde.

Experience is merely the name men give

to their mistakes. I won’t name you.

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