Philip Schaefer

Dear Satan,

I’m creating a new language in which everything I say
loses its original meaning. When I tell you a robin
fell from its nest I mean we dropped another bomb
in Syria and now we’re stuck with all this aftermath
of gravity. Last year I called a friend an enemy
by showing him how a lover can become an X over
night. Aren’t you proud? Now I tell my wife I’m coming
home by sleeping on a stranger’s couch. It’s all just
a rehearsal, a skin you can edit with necktie and speech.
Dead children are the universal currency, so when I throw
crumpled dollars on the wooden bar I’m asking
for a glass of stinging nettles, a throat circus, a version
of mad you haven’t seen before. Take seven more.
Take until your thirst for war becomes its own war.
Everywhere I go another television clicks up or down
into a ball being swung over a fence. A moniker scrolls
along the bottom announcing an elephant with a fifth
leg, a country without a name on fire, a new god
to misinterpret. Dear Satan, we’re getting closer
to handing you the earth, the skeleton key resting
on my tongue like a sugar cube. Steady your hand.



Feeding the Mouthless

Bone saw, bone marrow, bone cancer. Bar
none, moonlit rain ticking off the deer shed’s
jawbone is a perfect sadness. The way bone
light lines our thoughts, creates carapaces
for secrets, hallways our mind has yet to tread,
be trapped in. There are bones in musical notes
as long as stretchers, soft as dandelion crowns.
All the spaces between the bones we break,
the bone dust between relationships, forgetting
when to say sorry, I dropped the cantaloupe.
And there it is, orange blood, an entire summer
of no bones. Of holding crustaceans above
water as a means to remember what it feels like
to miss home. But we don’t. We go months without
dialing our mothers and in the checkout lines,
at traffic lights, construction sites, we know
how much glass can break in a single sob.
Somewhere in a cabin in the mountains
a chandelier of bones exposes an older couple’s
insides. They played roulette with the weather
and won if you’re willing to think of it that way.
When I turn off the radio, the radiator, every
lamp in the house, I can hear my individual bones
singing. Gregorian, they chant my enemy’s name.


Philip Schaefer’s first collection of poems Bad Summon won the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize from the University of Utah Press and will be released Summer 2017. He is the author of three chapbooks, two of which were co-written with friend and poet Jeff Whitney. He won the 2016 Meridian Editor’s Prize in poetry and has work out or due out in Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Thrush Poetry Journal, Guernica, The Cincinnati Review, Salt Hill, Bat City Review, The Adroit Journal, Baltimore Review, and Passages North among others. He tends bar in Missoula, MT.