My Childhood Dog Jessie Once Ate A Box of 120-Count Crayolas and Shat Speckled Rainbows for a Week


I used to think everything had meaning— and it does.

—Mary Ruefle


And how was I supposed to

not look for her

leavings like Easter

eggs or mud


pies with sprinkles

in the tall summer

grass? My humor back

then—fast


to ignite, like Vicky

Volvo’s backseat

upholstery

when my mother’s


cigarette

wind-whipped

out her open

window and back in


through mine.

The little burn

on my thigh

like a tiny camellia,


the blister’s

petals angry

as the lie.

Don’t show this


to anyone, she said.

They’ll think—

they’ll think I—

I butterflied


my heart

like a shrimp

over that. And

when I asked


if I could call

my grandmother

about the rainbow

shit, mom said, Some things


we just don’t

talk about.

I didn’t understand

delight


not shared.

Or pain.

Soon, the blister

melted back


into me.

Like joy.

My forgetting—

human, plain.



At Eleven, I Described an Aging, Female Celebrity to My Father as Looking "Rode Hard and Put Up Wet"


I thought I was talking about horses.

I mean, I thought my mother had been


talking about horses. The way they sweat

when you ride them hard—that oily sheen


on their coats like curing cast iron.

I wanted a horse so bad I checked out


the newspaper during library time,

copying the classifieds onto the back


of my hand: Gelding, 11yo, 15.5 hands.

On Sundays, his day


of custody, my father sometimes took me

to a nearby farm to ride


and there, on the back

of Ariel or Carlos or Nan,


I’d imagine myself on my future

ranch with my husband Brian


Oakes, the boy who sat two rows

away and whose father taught us


how to balance a checkbook

during one Junior Achievement


lesson. When I said what I said,

my father threatened soap.


And then he threatened

my mother. He said, Parrot,


into the phone. He said, Just like.

I was also fat. And Brian knew it.


My father knew it and said,

More exercise or else—


I did Jump Rope for Heart.

The Presidential Fitness Test.


My Republican father, a “McCain man,”

did a Bill Clinton impersonation


as we drove the twelve hours

to Florida: I did not


have sexual relations

with that woman. I heard


she was fat. I heard, Out

of all the women,


from women. My mother

included. And me, then.


I’m sorry, Monica.

I’m sorry, Joan Jett—


I thought I was talking

about horses.


I thought beauty ran wild

somewhere else.



EMILIA PHILLIPS (she/her/hers) is the author of four poetry collections from the University of Akron Press, including the forthcoming Embouchure (2021), and four chapbooks. Winner of a 2019 Pushcart Prize and a 2019-2020 NC Arts Council Fellowship, Phillips’s poems, lyric essays, and book reviews appear widely in literary publications including Agni, American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, The New York Times, Ploughshares, Poetry, Publisher’s Weekly, and elsewhere. She’s an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at UNC Greensboro.

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