Ann A. Philips

Six Poems from A Language the Land is Inventing

Cochlear Implant from Advanced Bionics, a Swiss Corporation

Now we know that our own Milky Way is a spiral galaxy
in its arms newborn stars white-hot and raw though how
contrary to laws of physics a swirling spiral can be stable
and not wind tighter into its core is what we do not know
On the shiny cover of the brochure is a bony labyrinth
of the ear Inside the cochlea
a nest locked in an aisle of the mind
The shape of infinity is the shape of the cochlea yet
in a labyrinth there will be a beast
even in this full color brochure from Advanced Bionics
Robert Indiana graphics in tones of rouge
where families clasp hands sports-car drivers
sing in tune and every child is successful a beast
in 2.5 turns of electrode around its axis
at a temporal resolution of 83,000 pulses per second
against fragile cochlear hairs with 460 pitch percepts
up to 80 decibels of dynamic input range
Or think of billions of worlds in creation
Think of opening into stillness
where no beast follows

 

Turritopsis nutricula, a Jellyfish, Reverts to its Youth

for D.K.

I.

Under certain still-obscure conditions
a pale blue snow globe of the sea
reinvents itself. Change comes—
to the jelly medusa,
the glory-red stomach,
to the crazy-string tentacles flashing
their phosphorescent dots.
Tentacles retract. The pulsing umbrella
medusa turns inside out.

II.

Undefended now, the medusa
grabs for an anchor and hangs on.
The umbrella absorbs.
Clustered cells consume themselves.
Young cells bulge into buds.
Buds burst.
New medusas drift off.

III.

Maybe she was coaxed,
or whispered to,
by an unknown force.
The insistent muse wakes
a compulsion so voracious
that even an old one
might turn inside out—
reveal her soft core to passing predators.
Sink inward to feast and find fecundity
for herself, for the colony.

 

Red Cardinal Nights

for Prella

An August night mist-netted across the yard.
Tree frogs chanting relay. Down in St. Louis
Joe blinks into daubs of light. Leans
into his wishbone to call the game for KMOX.

Under the window our white beds float toe to toe,
the black radio on the floor between us. My sister
cross-legged on her bed, dark crown of hair
concentrated, marks stats on paper.

Garagiola’s voice ribbons through us
down the yard over foraging possums
to the forbidden thicket. It pushes through,
lifts over the bruised railroad tracks.

From our pack of colored trading cards:
a thin rectangle to unwrap as the Anthem rolls.
To break the wafer into sharp chips melting
pink on our tongues as Curt Flood,
Kenny Boyer, Stan Musial—flare in glory.

 

Once, in Montreal:

Expo ’67

Escalators jerk—ca-cha, ca-cha.
Below the belted Expo windows
a clutch of eager faces throb
at the final churning step. “There she is!”
Camera bulbs flash—then faces sag
as an unknown girl with Jackie’s brown hair
slides into view. But Jackie is here, somewhere—
Suddenly a dark rush—we courtiers ebb;
she passes right to left swiftly beyond arm’s
reach, sleek and tangible, her skin tired
at 38. The look she gave us—an apology.
For what? For our giving way? For worshipping?
Why would we resent you, Jackie? Not
for the royal drawl, silken shoulders, fluent
French, horsewoman’s legs, Cassini gowns—
not for disliking Jack’s pummeling tribe.
No blame for the bloodstained pink
suit: I want them to see what they did to him.
But—running from America? Well, that.

Yes. Fearing for your children all the more
after Bobby was shot. Then marrying a raw
tycoon for security. Westing umpteen million
from his heirs. Does anyone remember that you saved
the palace, Grand Central? And Lafayette Square?
Held off the bulldozers at Columbus Circle
for 20 years? Could edit with the big shots?
You didn’t believe a man can be faithful.
Now I forgive you even that. All of it.
Because once, in Montreal, I
was mistaken for Jackie Kennedy.

 

Galilee

The brown mongrel waves a shoe at the other dog, three times his size,
on the cropped grass of the monastery beside the water.

In the olive grove a man might sleep two thousand years
and wake to find it spring and the olives ripening on their silvered leaves;

a domed church now on the hill that was bare in his headstrong days; fruits
shimmering in fields that were swamp then, where lions came to drink.

New sand-colored towers in place of Herod’s palace spread across the hills
on the western shore—Tiberias, where he read the law.

In the fields, the strange fruit, the four-lane highways,
the Separation Wall, he reads the lives of all who fled here

to turn wilderness into homeland no pogrom will drive them from.
Down the Golan from snowy Mount Hermon blows the wind, his old ache.

Beach stones stutter; the two dogs have come
to drink the water, warm to the touch.

 

The Poland Sonata

Do not mourn, dears, for the bass clef
torn from the score We who are old in this country
are used to scraping the stone streets
half clad in half scores
Like Chopin buried in Paris without his heart
We barely hear the wound

Dear ones tonight is the night we have waited for

On the far shore one wise man lives yet
Lives since the last King’s time He will conjure what is lost
Orphaned bass notes rise from cellars, hollow trees, tile stoves
A white stork circles the Castle
Chopin has come He is there at the river opening his chest

Notes climb the staff link arms and legs in chords
Across the score match note to note phrase to phrase
Synagogues fill once more Frédéric’s heart from the white church
Partisans home from the East
Dawn breaks on the Vistula Chopin touches the keys

 

All poems reprinted from A Language the Land is Inventing (WordTech Editions, 2017), with permission of the author.

 

WordTech Editions is a poetry publisher that aims to further the connection between people and the world in which they live through the art of poetry. Books in this series explore human experience in light of social, political, historical, or natural contexts. WordTech Editions is one of seven imprints of WordTech Communications, one of the nation’s largest poetry publishers, bringing out approximately 50 titles per year.

 

Ann A. Philips is the author of A Language the Land is Inventing (WordTech Editions, 2017) and the middle-grade novel If You Believe in Mermaids, Don't Tell (Dog Ear, 2007). She earned an MA in Russian Literature from Harvard University and an MS in Counseling from the University of Southern Maine, and has taught writing and literature, and worked as a psychotherapist and a guide at the National Zoo Reptile House. Raised in Columbia, MO, she currently lives in historic Washington Grove, MD.