Philip Schaefer


We close our eyes to arrive in the middle of a field.
A field with holes rifled through aluminum cans
and dogs whose eyes have been mistaken
for cans. We grow up all over again:
the road’s gravel in our skin, the drunk sunset
drilling crimson holes down the sky’s open throat.
In the distance a coal train crawls across these hills
like a glinting necklace. Grass makes sauce
of last fall’s pumpkins and a horse falls to its knees
before the changing season. When we open our eyes
we will surely die, mountains only as large as our thumbs
will allow. We cannot say anything. We are so immense.


I’ve been running a thumb
over my gums all week, tonguing

sugar, curious but not yet
ready to give in to wonder.

Jack bought a sack of powder
and I’ve never smoked the Christ

out of crystal. It’s true,
my zodiac is a razor-fish

and tonight I’m going to shoot
for blue. What happens happened

forever. The bowling ball blow,
nitrous ecstasy. Anything with a hose

that isn’t green. Down the street
a pair of shoes dangle like wet

laundry from telephone wire.
A kid without teeth runs

through the bushes, the fence,
pretending his hands are fire

trucks. His mother’s eyes
turn to glass each afternoon,

two moons slow to orbit,
and I know when she reaches

for the mail she often forgets
who he is. Don’t we all.



Someone once told me
if I could dream it I should
drink it. So I let the word boil
like black, unlit oil in my throat,
waiting for anyone to strike
a match. Tell me you could
hate me. Tell me and I will turn
into a bouquet of white and blue
flames. Last week in Montana
a woman took a cattle brand
to her stomach. The small,
not-quite-body inside her body
pinched out by the red fingers
of hot metal. I have an addiction
to stories like this. I cannot sleep
anymore. My eyes light up
like aquarium fish in the night.
Give me the farmer who slow-bleeds
his pigs, the old professor who cuts
harmonica slits into his wrists.
Let me feed off. Let me hate
and be hated. There are
immeasurable qualities
in the dark. A face without
a hand to trace it. The voice
taken from the mouth, saying
come with me and don’t look back.


Philip Schaefer’s poems are out or forthcoming in The National Poetry Review, RHINO, Fourteen Hills, Pacifica, Calliope, Toad, The Chariton Review, Noon and elsewhere. He is also the recipient of an Academy of American Poets prize. Philip can usually be found tending bar at the local distillery in Missoula, where he is an MFA candidate at the University of Montana. He is haunted by waters.