Russian Doll Theory

If killer whales are the missing children of shooting
stars and children are cutout eyes of distant gods
then we’re finally getting somewhere. If good
is a silver dollar the retired magician just can’t pull
from any old ear anymore, we’re finally calling
the whole thing off. The black walnut tree burns
in the yard outside the fire department while its fighters
drop from the sky until their lungs are nothing
but cherry smoke. Everything out here is circular
and even death for a split second is sated. So we eat
drugs like peppermints while the marble oceans
of our skin become a litany you can memorize
with two fingers and an open-jawed religion. We raze
a dog’s routine by going on permanent vacation.
When you strap a flask of sorrow to your chest and ask
the whole town to drink from your body you are
asking for the moment right before the miracle fails.
Like an alley cat with moths for eyes or the thin rolled
soul of a motel bible. The pain you never knew you wanted.
All this giving & giving & giving & going inside forever.

PHILIP SCHAEFER's debut collection of poems Bad Summon (University of Utah Press, 2017) won the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize, and he’s the author of three chapbooks, two co-written with friend and poet Jeff Whitney. He won the 2016 Meridian Editor’s Prize in poetry, has been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and in the Poetry Society of America. Individual work is 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, diode, and Passages North among others. He tends bar in Missoula, Montana.