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


Referred to as “one of America’s most original, influential, and productive of lyric poets,” Carl Phillips is the author of a dozen books of poetry and two works of criticism. He was born in Everett, Washington in 1959, and his family moved frequently around the United States. He earned a BA from Harvard, an MAT from the University of Massachusetts, and an MA in creative writing from Boston University. Before teaching English at . . .

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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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