By Rowan Ricardo Phillips
He never saw a violin.
But he saw a lifetime of violence.
This is not to presume
That if he had simply seen
A violin he would have seen
Less violence. Or that living among
Violins, as though they were
Boulangeries or toppling stacks
Of other glazed goods like young adult
Fiction, would have made the violence
Less crack and more cocaine,
Less of course and more why god oh why.
More of one thing
Doesn’t rhyme with one thing.
A swill of stars doesn’t rhyme
With star. A posse of poets doesn’t rhyme
With poet. We are all in prison.
This is the brutal lesson of the 21st century,
Swilled like a sour stone
Through the vein of the beast
Who watches you while you eat;
Our eternal host, the chummed fiddler,
The better tomorrow,
Born and raised in New York City, poet, literary and art critic, and translator Rowan Ricardo Phillips earned a BA at Swarthmore College and a PhD at Brown University. A contributing writer at Artforum, he has taught at Columbia University, Harvard, Princeton, and at SUNY-Stony Brook, where he’s served as director of the Poetry Center. Phillips lives in New York and Barcelona. His poems engage the acts of post-9/11 memory and ruin, lingering in interrupted or merged landscapes of art, rhetoric, and marginalia.
More Poems about Living
Vagrants and Loiterers
You got that clean waistcoat,
the bright white of a well-tailored
shirt, you got those loose-as-sacks
slacks and some spit-polished shoes,
and you know, whether you are looking
like money, or about to take a stroll,
to tilt that hat like you own
the world; yeah, smoke...
What Women Are Made Of
We are all ventricle, spine, lung, larynx, and gut.
Clavicle and nape, what lies forked in an open palm;
we are follicle and temple. We are ankle, arch,
sole. Pore and rib, pelvis and root
and tongue. We are wishbone and gland and molar