My Beautiful Wickedness


Let’s Play Two.
April 21, 2007, 8:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Here are two by a newer poet, Patrick Phillips. These poems come courtesy of StorySouth.

MY LOVELY ASSISTANT

After the episode of That’s Incredible!
in which a whole family of Armenians
in sequined shirts ate fire
and spewed blue, burning plumes, my brother
tied a cottonball to a bent coathanger
and dipped the end in gasoline.

What made us who we are,
one crazy, fearless—one always afraid?
I stood by the ping-pong table
in our mother’s only sparkly dress,
playing the role of Patricia, Lovely Assistant

because he was bigger than me,
and a master of the headlock,
and threatened, with his breath of snot
and bubble gum and cigarettes,
a vicious wedgy if I didn’t.

So I handed him the silver Zippo,
not knowing what future waited for my brother,
still thinking I could save him
who hated being saved—

who took my dare one night to lie
on the yellow stripe of Brown’s Bridge Road
and stayed there talking to himself,
pointing to a satellite adrift among the stars,
while I begged him to get up.

What sat in an upstairs bedroom
giggling at the click of our father’s .38.
Who loved the sting of the torch
sizzling his spit-glazed tongue.

So I kept one eye on the door, knowing
from experience how it would end,
how all things turned finally to anger
in that house, where he leaned back, shark-eyed,
and took a swig from the red gas can,
the spitting image of our father in a rage.

He stood between me and that pain.
Knowingly, he raised the magic wand up to his lips.
I sit and wonder what it means—
my brother’s sweet face
bursting into flames.

THE CHIMNEY

Inside the chimney my father built
with stones we hauled from Six Mile Creek,
above the flue, beneath the soot,
is a penny I watched him press into the mortar

before he hefted another slab of shale,
another fractured gypsum brick,
so after the pitched roof falls,
after the shingles and cherry rafters crack

and burn in someone else’s fire,
until the chimney stands marooned
in the clearing in the woods, and later falls,
smooth stones sliding down the hill,

when someone, a young man walking to the creek mouth,
stops at the glint from a rock, mica, or quartz,
and finds a coin so black and thin
he can barely read the year—

then, my father said, someone will think of him,
long ago pulling the penny from his pocket
and pressing it against the drying chimney,
leaving his long thumbprint swirling.

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