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Sample Poems by Ann Philips

On Trial
Pigs, snails, dogs, cows, eels, rats and other animals were tried and punished
in Medieval Europe's civil and ecclesiastical courts.
-E. P. Evans


Death smuts this air; accordingly
I enter the pantry masked, and cautiously-
reluctant hangman, wearing your scar.
Among the jugs of two-cycle oil,
bars of paraffin wax in damp cardboard,
jars of nails in four sizes, there they are:
punctured acorn shells, black confetti.
Trash from a mousey winter party.
A dark closet's hazard-where you scoot,
stare, scratch your neck, cock a snoot
at me, rodent- felon, doomed
for filching barley at Autun
in the 16th C., tearing the silk at Laon.
Cursed and hanged, now you take
revenge on me. Exodus says
to put to death the ox who
kills a man, not to eat the meat.
Fair warning: D-Con is sweet.
There should be penance for your unchristian
mess in the napkins, infecting your champion
with murine germs. I'm willing to sacrifice
a bushel for you, but what's your price?
You plague me. You ride my neck, Mouse.
Shall you take again an ounce of flesh?
Or like the Bard of Gort, Senchan Torpest
at castle Connaught, whose stew
went missing, do I rhyme you
down from the eaves in metrical
satire: shall I rhyme you to death?




Soviet Woman Considers Her Husband in the Gulag
Moscow 1951


At Kokolya the wheat climbed to our waists
and larks fell out of the sky for love of summer.
But I am here, leaning out my greasy windowsill
in a city where falling is not for love but for awe that we persist.

And love is rarer in my fellow countrymen than a plum in Davich market.
Here, faces like trolley grills shudder along our given routes.
Remember how you hung from the cars grinning, like a dog
from a cart? Now they'd cut off your head rather than stop for you.

Kiss our friends, if you see them. God grant that you will.
I have hidden tea enough for one pot
wrapped in canvas from your old raincoat.
When you return you will not speak of the places you have been.

Nor will I tell of the wild dogs who throw brick ends
at the one who loves a zek. One dog, I will tell you,
warmed my chilblains a few nights until I could not bear the smell of him.
Your geranium, all legs and faded pink as a newborn mouse,

I move from one window to the other whispering your songs.
When you return we will sit, hand to heart,
sip tea and spit out the stems. We will speak just a little.
Tonight the sky is fierce. The clouds, puffed with false reports.



Alaska: A Prayer for Akhiok


Celebrants in shiny brown and black
polypropylene curve before the wind
through the purple tundra up the hill
to the Russian church beaconing blue
and white and blue in the long afternoon sun.

Inside the church, immigrants from ruined
Kaguyak-who came riding the swells over the mountain
in '64 to solid rectangular houses with insulation
and bathrooms, courtesy of the Corps of Engineers-
sit apart from the old-time Akhiok folks, cold
from their rumpled hand-built homes.
The tidal wave ebbed, but not the grudge.

Down on the beach among the egg crates and sockeye tins
a pup emerges, coughing, from the butchered seal's womb.
Blinking against the sun refusing to set over Moser Bay
she rolls back her head and wails, disarming for a short time
a gawking hullabaloo of boys.
Eyes opening as wide as the bay, she lurches forward
looking for God, the skin-wearer.



Empty Pasture
1946


Tumble bug finds his cow pat and dives in,
armored as a Kraut sub.
Carves out his take.

Stands up to it.
Hugs with his front four.
Turns home with his stores.

Pushes that boulder up
the bird-foot track
the John Deere made in May.

It hasn't rained since Hell
was a grass fire.

One notch in the tread
traps his load.
Dung beetle works it

and works it.
Edges it to the open.
Up the wall of pinched earth.

Ball hits an overhang,
rolls them both back.
Tumblebug rights himself.

Plants his Graziano back legs.
Grapples and butts it up the ridge.
It rolls away. He fetches it.