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Philip Schaefer

Ballad for Glass Gun


Afternoon sky a cobalt circus. Cloud clowns

and the unworn wedding gown of snow

at our feet. We are falling in love with the dead

bodies that wash to shore, the cold cash

deal the soul makes with surrender.

So we grow our hands into funeral doves.

We kneel for those no longer in need.

The witches sacrifice their power, the electricity

of their skin now a hospital decision. This country

is not a country but a needle between toes

and the quiet hallway of ghosts the eyes roll back

through. Join the chorus drug party. Shoot up

or be shot up. The kids’ mouths balloon

into political cartoons. The collective mantra

is hurt. The required capital is everything you own.

Bodies are washing to shore, countless, unaccounted.




The Silence Between The Silence Between


No one is leaving you. No one is

taking your heart

like a Slinky and walking it down

the creaking stairs

to hell. Get over yourself. The moon

isn’t your chalkboard.

Zebras lie down in the thick center

of darkness and still

no lion comes. Fish roil through

the wet balloon

of a whale and even whales forget

hunger. Tonight,

imagine you’re at a dinner party

where everyone

is drinking in your honor. God

smiles a rainbow

out the window. Imagine the best

sex or a new drug

or the idea that happiness is more

than pleasure. If joy

lives in the backseat of a convertible

imagine your middle

name is Nevada. Gamble everything

you never owned.

No one is leaving you yet. No one

loves you enough to.




Operant Conditional


If I could float a helicopter out of my volcanic mouth. If I could horse walk and kneel. Some days salvation feels like the back of a mother’s hand along my drawbridge forehead. Testing for temperature. Human mercury. Others, it’s just a cuss, a dead rabbit curled in a forgotten top hat. All the good we leave behind for a light dose of magic. All the glory we set gore to. I keep trying to rescue your drowning face in my dreams but there are fingers holding me back. They snake across my cheeks, probe my orifices, push me under. It’s quieter in the water where both our eyes are open sores. You’re smiling with your insides. Above us they’re lowering a rope ladder. A hand the size of forgiveness. This is where decisions are made. Where swallowing shifts from verb to noun. When a heartbeat becomes nothing more than a paperclip on a magnet. Somewhere a car is spinning off the highway. A forest is on fire, first wildflower then ash. You’re signaling to me like a baby whale. You want to sleep in the folds. If I blow you a kiss, let it be a finch, something similar to, but not quite gold. A symbol for the all the ways we’ve failed each other. Let it fly off like old beliefs.

Philip Schaefer poems

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 individual work out or due out in Kenyon Review, Thrush Poetry Journal, Guernica, The Cincinnati Review, Birdfeast, Salt Hill, Bat City Review, The Adroit Journal, Baltimore Review, and Passages North among others. He tends bar in Missoula, MT.

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