Three Poems by Hayley Phillips

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


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
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.

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.

0 replies on “Three Poems by Hayley Phillips”