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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


to ignite, like Vicky

Volvo’s backseat


when my mother’s



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


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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