you are in the diode archives diode v4n3




                from London with 103 fever to my father,
                APO HE 09342, Baghdad

All the Kurdistan honey you sent me—
I drizzled into sour-mash whiskey, suspending
mid-glass in viscous curls. A girl
from Tennessee drinks Tennessee
whiskey, the pubtender quibs, unfolding
a white napkin before me.
                                           —Do you like your country


music, too? Fever, self-medication: four shots
& then sprawled in my hotel bed, watching crime
shows, Scotland Yard murder while dozing
in & out. A hive of dreams: the fire like honey
clinging. It doesn’t burn that way, you say.
It overruns everything. Pneumonia: the diagnosis.
Why didn’t I go sooner?—the doctor muses,

Your American insurance


I’m obliged to trouble with? I take the pills,
swallow them whole: pink
bullets. Sometimes, you hear explosions,

you say, as far away it seems as stars,
                                                               & as bantam.
You’re asked to know a country
by its fingerprints & therefore, its criminal action
only. In the lab, the a/c smells sweet,
the coolant resists dissolution,


dripping. On the television, the boom & sibilance
of the old year on Trafalgar receding—
into the dream of you as the faceless keeper
approaching with fire, the smoke to lull
the bees that fall soundlessly
                                                having eaten

from all fruits, following the design—


Automaton: The Flute Player, 1738

            Jacques de Vaucauson, inventor

Twelve songs to prove his faculty, nine
            bellows to create & three pipes
                        to carry wind to the oral cavity

where a thin tongue controls
            the release across the riser, enlivening
                        the shaft with vibration while the fingers,

padded in leather, piston their combinations
            on the keys—the rhythm, perfunctory—
                        & the notes unwavering in intonation

remain unblemished by innervation,
            even as the lips, smooth & wooden,
                        narrow toward a higher pitch.


Automaton: Francine, 1649

                allegedly created & named by Descartes
                after his deceased daughter

Uncarved, the fingers. Their delineation
in simple brushstrokes, black.

                                                Her mouth
open. Her name, Francine. Daughter. With creation
always the chagrin from imperfection—

effigy’s insensate rigor. Descartes, traveling
for the last time to Sweden, lugs the heavy box
              Inside the girl sleeps & does not

sleep, as the dead do. In months, his lungs
will bellow fluid & collapse. The ship rocks.

The head swivels, ball in socket. Endemic
or given, the mind winds down, clockwork ticking.


Bertillon: Three Measurements

                In 1883, Alphonse Bertillon devised a system for criminal
                identification called “Bertillonage.” In total, ten measurements
                of the suspect’s body were recorded at the time of incarceration.


not heads or genitalia legs or hands
but more torsos survive
from classical architecture so much
defending a territory
& drawing the opposite sex
in the lek arena depends on chest
puffing one’s appearance of being larger than
     the self some men


breathe in to fool the measurements
mistaking hollowness
for girth they are one the statues
of sturdy marble solid muscle
of stone & permanent grace even
in pieces abdomen joining back
buttocks & pectoralis with organs
& heart the achene uncarved
inside the dormant germ still surviving
fugitive sharing the body
     of our ideals


     Length and width of the head

a bowl which we carry with no hands
a dark wine

of thought rippling with each step
some men spill

stain some men overflow
the acts of men are difficult  to understand

the bread entering us becoming body
in the mind

the wine the blood the deed transfiguring
into guilt

other men have no faith
in the law some men act

on passion
the larger the brain

the more intelligent the animal
some need proof

of their humanity
through punishment  


Emilia Phillips is the author of the chapbook Strange Meeting (Eureka Press, 2010), the lead associate editor of Blackbird, and an MFA poetry candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her poetry has appeared most recently in or is forthcoming from Asheville Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, Copper Nickel, Indiana Review, Superstition Review, Sycamore Review, and elsewhere.