Emilia Phillips

Treading Water

I came to the beach

but did not shave

my legs I used to

think my body was

a torch held

out before

me all gazes

drawn like muted

wings in the waves

I lose all sense

of time spitting

salt and swallowing

it still how

could anyone fall

asleep with their eyes

open the planes

above the shore dragging

banners for buffet

specials and parasailing

tours seem elegiac

for what

I don’t know every

day feels like a great

goodbye the sun

a swallow of hot

tears whose job is it

to worry

about the cemeteries

in heavy

rain hurricanes

picking up whole

oceans whole oceans


in the sky how do we make

love like two storms

one riding the currents

over land east

another offshore

born turning

inland to meet each

slowing in

their angry

embrace the umbrellas

crack in the wind

whole families walk

their slow legs

back in

against the rip

tide to the beach because it begins

to rain a light

rain they don’t want

to get wet salt stings

an eye but we don’t

call an eye

a wound I find my

feet still fit

my prints in the sand

I arrive back

on land looking for

my I

I think it’s there

in my spine

holding up my

weight the everything

else I almost expected

to have been

lost at sea



Sweat Bee

some days I’m better
for my anger more
prepared for my pain

for my pain more
prepared for instance
I knew the storm was coming

yesterday for the way
the screws tightened
in my heel their heads

just visible under my
skin the dog’s crying
for all the fireworks

though his nose’s to the air
for the grill the hiss
of meat we try not to

imagine with names
like Bluebell and James
Dean sometimes I think

that all these 4th of July
parties are really to celebrate
each person as a country

each unto their
own I am nostalgic
for a time when my friends

would have said sick
burn after an insult
we used to go

to the skating rink
and play redlight greenlight
whoever got caught

moving after redlight
had to sit out
until allskate I almost

hit a bird today
because it ran across
the road instead of taking

wing the most patriotic
I get these days is loving
the smell of a struck

match and almost
reveling in a sweat
bee’s sting while I eat

watermelon at a picnic
table rafted together
from dry-rot and some

semblance of family after
that summer of wheels
and nachos and pinball

quarters the owner of Skatin’
Jakes set the rink on fire
for the insurance

payout I hope the cost
wasn’t too high I hope
the cost wasn’t too

low it’s not a fire
this flame inside me
it’s a temper


Emilia Phillips is the author of two poetry collections from the University of Akron Press, Signaletics (2013) and Groundspeed (2016), and three chapbooks, most recently Beneath the Ice Fish Like Souls Look Alike (Bull City Press, 2015). Her poems and lyric essays appear widely in literary publications including Agni, Boston Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and elsewhere. She’s an assistant professor in the MFA Writing Program and the Department of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her third book, Empty Clip, will be published by the University of Akron Press Spring 2018.