Dennis Phillips


Sophiaís Lament




Can a book read a book?

Then why do they tell me Iím beautiful?

And what are these clouds that mask my eyes

and this strange thing they call air and insist on?


I tell you often that I like to hurt myself.

I mean what I say but itís not what you think.

I mean that I too insist on air now,

more and more as my eyes see clouds I once passed through.


What are those noises above us?


Does food drop straight to your feet?

I thought I told you this before.






There are night birds in my house

and the old woman begs me for a kiss.


There were squirrel-birds and jackal-birds

and the old woman wore a vermilion jacket.


She sits on the edge of a resting ladder.

Her arms rehearse a dance but she canít stand.


If you clap your hands the birds will go away.

Or at night the cold air slows them to be gathered.


I try to make the old woman stay

but sheís looking somewhere else.


I hit my pillow. I throw my hundred creatures.

You ask me why I canít sleep alone.





What has changed in their voices?

Donít be afraid to answer.

Just because I once fed on air

doesnít mean Iím fragile.

Iím not like the beards of Spanish Moss

hanging from trees by the ocean.


There was an animal but it was clothes.

Thatís what the dark is like.

The air and the dark are not the same.


Is this a dream?

Is that what happened?






Itís still dark but is it morning?

Does that make it the day?

A day can be where letters and numbers

are carried by the same breeze.


I can hear clouds passing.

There are sparks and sweeps of light outside.

Inside the darkness looks like gray flannel, but moving.

Then I see pink on the curtains.


What is it that they expect of me?

Why do we need to sleep?

When can I know what it is they do

who drive at night?





Iím not tired. I sit on the porch

and watch the world pass by.

The world is cars, birds, helicopters

and someone who brings letters.


Palm fronds play in the wind

but what are fronds?

Crickets pulse and the night is hot.

Will this be my memory of summer?


Thereís a vacancy I feel

but they canít tell me why.

And only crickets come.


I wonder about the wind.

It whistles or the house does.

Something looms in the voices they speak with,

something unknowable that will never be enough.



†††††††††††††††††††††††† Pasadena, 26 November 2004









Copyright ©2005 by Dennis Phillips


Author of the poetry collections Sand, Credence, Study for the Ideal City, A World, Arena and other books, Dennis Phillips teaches at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where he lives with his wife Courtney and their daughter, Sophia.