Maya Phillips

Read the introduction by guest editor Gabrielle Calvocoressi.

The Woman


The woman at the podium,
whose hair is ironed back and down
with the utmost care, who wears a dress,
not black, but something more flattering,
thanks my father for saving her, even now,
even in death, though my father seems not
to notice at all. No one knows the woman
who is now crying and has been speaking
for too long now. What kind of she speaks
in the company of silence, moves like a fire
through darkened rooms? My mother watches
the woman, whose every sentence tolls
his name in this room of family and friends
who keep the question of her safe, tucked
behind their teeth. Everyone’s smiling,
though it’s far from the occasion. The room puckers
around the curve of her lips
and my mother’s is a platinum silence;
she wears it like a ring while the dead man sleeps
undisturbed in his box, not a word, not a
stir as the stones in the graveyard chatter.


Sometimes my father is a roaming hunger


which is to say sometimes he’s the locusts
swarming the front door or the stray scratching
at the window at night. He is what looks for its
fill, the empty chamber of evening, my father,
who drinks the grit at the bottom of each glass,
devours every morsel and mite—untidy he is, we
are, in hosting the remnants, feasting the spoiled.
When he is the appetite that outlives him, my father eats
himself out of the grave, dines on the neighborhood,
chews our house down to its bones.


In Which My Mother and Father Meet for Brunch After His Death


They’re in the cafe in the next town over,
the cute one with the red awning, and she’s trying to remember
how she got here, in this cafe she’s driven past but never been to,
eating her spinach and goat cheese omelette, him, his french toast and home fries,
only he’s not eating but saying he’s sorry, and she thinks how strange it is
when the words come out of the mouth of the waiter, saying sorry he forgot the fruit salad—
it will just be a second; and out of the mouth of the woman joining the table to their left,
saying sorry she’s late because of traffic, the parkway was a mess; and out of the mouths
of the boys in the back booth, their faces sticky with syrup and jam, who had been speeding
like trains around the tables before their mother told them to stop, to say, I’m sorry—
and now my mother’s done with her meal and he’s saying he’s sorry like a beggar
asking for food, only there is no one else here, just the two of them
and their silverware and plates and packets of salt and sugar and honey
at the only table there is, and maybe this isn’t a cafe or anyplace even real—
because when he says he’s sorry again, the last time, she wonders
how he speaks with his mouth sealed shut.




Even a broken clock…
yes, my father’s right about this:
he’d be dead soon anyway, a joke but more
like a prediction—my father both
the oracle and the punchline,
the 8 in the morning and
the 8 at night on the kitchen clock
whose life slowed then stopped here
and though most times it isn’t right
maybe it’s an act of compassion
the way the scene stills, my father mid-
joke, mid-breath, at the sink or the open
refrigerator door, and it’s a Tuesday night
as he grabs a snack before work or
the last time we talked in the kitchen together
or the day I moved out or the night he died,
cold french fries on the counter, can of soda
by the sink, lights still on here
in the house we have both lost and
regained, where it is both night
and day and everything else and nothing
in between, where my father is here
and is not, is right and is wrong
all in the same exact sentence.


Of Late


Wouldn’t his cousin love to nudge
and ask what it cost him—
a speeding ticket, a pair of wrinkled slacks,
a wallet forgotten on the nightstand?
And his mother, she’d love to say of course
and his sister’s head would shake with tsk-
tsks and his wife, still looking
at him as though she’s been waiting
all morning, he up with the sun but still,
somehow, kept her waiting at
the grocery store or
the doctor’s office or the bank,
or at home, and he swears he was here
first, right on time, but somehow those late
nights, that graveyard
shift had him dozing and now
wasn’t he supposed to meet her?
Wasn’t it his turn to let in
the electrician or the plumber,
his turn to pick up their daughter
forgotten at school? He wants to tell them
he’s here, has made it, finally,
was the first to arrive, dressed up,
pressed, laid out, still
waiting, patiently, for the rest
of them, even now, even after it’s over.

Maya Phillips is the author of the poetry collection Erou, forthcoming in fall 2019 from Four Way Books. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in At Length, BOAAT, The Gettysburg Review, Ghost Proposal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Vinyl, among others, and her arts & entertainment journalism has appeared in The New York Times, Vulture, American Theatre, and more. Maya currently works as the associate content editor & producer at the Academy of American Poets and as a freelance writer. She lives in Brooklyn.