These three poems by Hayley Phillips concern the mystical qualities of the spaces in between: the medieval notion of the spirituality of the margins, the intergenerational tension that lives between a mother and daughter, and the expectation of a transition that doesn’t come. It is within such liminal moments that the expression of humanity is at its most authentic and strange…
by: Hayley Phillips
Offering The story goes: man looked into the water for the first time – he saw god in this reflection because, being man, he was made after god – but we people have long located god in the borders, the space between bark and the wood of its tree, the margins of a page, the air inside an acorn’s capsule, the moment atmosphere reaches space, the bread once broken changed by becoming two, the body and its way of separation from the air around it, and of bodies the distance between one and another in divine contact; we made gods of our own skin and most certainly of the surface of the water who told us you are you who held up a shape for the taking.
Scream Theory Room with a botched clock, a curtain, nails on the floor. A woman with a jigsaw puzzle missing every other piece. In the corner a skewered globe, its map fabric shorn along the middle so place splays upward, away from itself. A mother drinks her voice back down to her center where it sits, a stone in her belly. They draw air at the same time and spill it towards the ceiling, invisible rivulets of weather. Heat rises and they are angry women. One is sour with the piano and crowds the bench so its voice goes out. The other thumbs cheap bells in on themselves, metal rendering its own motion trivial. Sound from far back in the mirror, a loss engraved, ordained. This thing too had its rise and its return. A daughter, who, when she's able, speaks jagged pieces of earth.
Inversion He hollers early hours in the summer chapel, pitcher of ice water catching tremors of the spirit. June beetles whiz blindly, morning glories already shriveled when we go to the river, whole congregation to watch your second coming. Sweat under new makeup, barefoot on rocks, dress too small, Into the water, bloom of sand and you don't protest. He lets it get up your nose, into your ears, everywhere, when you surface in his arms rub grit out of your eyes and it's an old, old burn.
A Virginia native, Hayley Phillips is now a PhD student at Louisiana State University and she received her MFA from Randolph College in 2021. Her work has been included or is forthcoming in New Note Poetry, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Whale Road Review, and Appalachian Review. She currently lives in Baton Rouge with her husband and two dogs.
Header art by Ran Stewart.