sporklet 1

Philip Schaefer

(Five Poems)



We’re leaving our fantasies out in the open.
Our latticed legs, the chest whips.
We’re on all fours like begging dogs.
Hello failure, hello my little french
whisperer. Immaculate milk streams down
the mirror, candied cherries float along
the hardwood river. This is a game of how long
can we stay together and say no to silence.
To wear a mouth mask with a red ball and suffer
the entire calendar of as long as possible.
We say threesome wholesome. We rinse
our hair in oil and breathe in the smoke.
We’re discovering the new languages between
oh god and disaster. Old pictures loosening
from their frames. The walls rumbling
like california. Neighbors walk their ordinary
lives around in leashes, ears closed to the world
we’ve created, destroyed. Hate and thirst and cats
shivering beneath the moon where we stare off
past the night. The night as quiet as finishing.


If the uvula is actually a wishbone
for the throat, go ahead, break
your heart on mine. Your whale
dreams. The pot of nail soup
thawing in the garage has nothing
in common with the dartboard
of ducks hushing beneath the town
pond. Everything has its own way
of breathing and then not breathing.
You are exactly one cosmos. I open
your mouth with my finger in search
of harmony, undiscovered asteroids.
In other words what opens like a cave
has no room for birds, just a chandelier
of ice melting into what it won’t become.

Sisyphus Self

My wife is gorgeous. She throws bacon
fat into everything. The blanched greens,
the rue, her hair. If I could I would
rinse the hickory out with my tongue.
Instead I outline a coffin for myself
on the sidewalk, siphoning a bottle
of cheap feelings, smoking half a pack
of moonlight. I tell myself to stop
being so romantic. Tell myself to stay
good to the woman feathered in my bed.
On the curb I finger her shape against
a constellation of star bulbs. I breathe out
a line of ants. We haven’t made love in weeks
but goddamn do we hold hands in public
to hide it. On the news tonight a newlywed
pushed her husband off a cliff in Glacier.
On the news I see myself pushing against
everywhere. Lately I fall over in fear.
I sleepwalk into the ground, letting spiders
cavern through my ears. There are ways
of letting things go: the mind, my wife,
our years. No one I know is dying.


A cancerous goat walking around
in fencepost circles is one way
to describe this. You are dead.
Everyone you loved is dead
to you and a field of charred wheat
flaking off the low Montana plains
isn’t enough to say we all beg
for winter water. We contain
multitudes. Miracles still fit
into our pockets like watches,
waltzes we’ve not yet stepped to.
This is hardly the earth. This is
my breath unraveling. My teeth.
A way to feel dread as if you could
teach me how to reinterpret new situations
again. Tell me the sky is a blue demon
filled with elevator music. I call thunder
down the corridor of a microphone.
I want you to know in some dreams
I completely stop dreaming but I don’t
wake up. Call it vacuum suck. An emotion.


I wear a paper bag over my head
with cutout eyes and a slit for the horse
of my tongue. I walk around town,
letting children and transients draw
their names on my face. Each signature
stitched like a scar. Each as foreign
as the day I was born. I’m trying to
become the animal you made of me.

Philip Schaefer is the author of two collaborative chapbooks with the poet Jeff Whitney. Smoke Tones is forthcoming from Phantom Limb (2015), and Radio Silence was selected by Black Lawrence Press as the Fall 2014 Black River Competition winner (2016). His poems are out or forthcoming in Forklift Ohio, DIAGRAM, Sonora Review, Fourteen Hills, H_NGM_N, alice blue, RHINO, Columbia Poetry Review, BOAAT, and Whiskey Island among others. He lives in Missoula, MT with his stunning wife and oblong dog where they are haunted by waters.