By Carl Phillips b. 1959 Carl Phillips
As through marble or the lining of   
certain fish split open and scooped   
clean, this is the blue vein
that rides, where the flesh is even   
whiter than the rest of her, the splayed   
thighs mother forgets, busy struggling   
for command over bones: her own,   
those of the chaise longue, all
equally uncooperative, and there’s   
the wind, too. This is her hair, gone   
from white to blue in the air.

This is the black, shot with blue, of my dark   
daddy’s knuckles, that do not change, ever.   
Which is to say they are no more pale   
in anger than at rest, or when, as
I imagine them now, they follow
the same two fingers he has always used   
to make the rim of every empty blue
glass in the house sing.
Always, the same
blue-to-black sorrow
no black surface can entirely hide.

Under the night, somewhere
between the white that is nothing so much as   
blue, and the black that is, finally; nothing,   
I am the man neither of you remembers.   
Shielding, in the half-dark,
the blue eyes I sometimes forget
I don’t have. Pulling my own stoop-
shouldered kind of blues across paper.   
Apparently misinformed about the rumored   
stuff of dreams: everywhere I inquired,   
I was told look for blue.

Carl Phillips, “Blue” from In the Blood. Copyright © 1992 by Carl Phillips. Reprinted with the permission of University Press of New England, Hanover, NH,

Source: In the Blood (University Press of New England, 1992)

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Poet Carl Phillips b. 1959

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, The Body, Race & Ethnicity, Nature, Relationships

 Carl  Phillips


Carl Phillips is the author of more than eight books of poetry, including most recently Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems 1986-2006, The Rest of Love, Rock Harbor, and The Tether, which won the Kingsley Tufts Award; he is the translator of Sophocles’ Philoctetes. Phillips teaches at Washington University in Saint Louis. He recently was awarded the 2006 Academy of American Poets Fellowship.

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SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, The Body, Race & Ethnicity, Nature, Relationships

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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