[Editors’ note: We’re proud to present our second miCRo feature. Every Wednesday we’ll spotlight a short piece that packs a punch—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and hybrid works. Chosen by our assistant and associate editors, miCRo features will be taut, timely, and thought provoking. See more information about how to submit in our submission guidelines.]

Emilia Phillips


Assistant Editor Caitlin Doyle: We are pleased to share Emilia Phillips’s evocative piece “‘You Should Write a Poem About That,’ They Say” as the first poetry feature in our miCRo series. With a combination of humor and gravitas, Phillips addresses the complicated interaction between life and art. Even as the speaker asserts her reluctance to put certain experiences into writing (“No, I don’t wish to make / more of the mouthful of my mother’s cigarettes I gulped from a Diet Rite / can, the dog with no hair she kept in the spare / room”), she forges poetry from the very subjects she wishes to avoid. We can’t help but “make more” of the poem’s many unsettling images, despite the speaker’s insistence that she can’t create art from them. Phillips invites us to consider how the memories we most resist often shape our lives, both as artists and human beings, in ways that we can’t fully control.

To hear Emilia Phillips reading her poem, you can click below:




“‘You Should Write a Poem About That,’ They Say”

by Emilia Phillips


No, I shouldn’t            I’m ill-equipped to crack a Korbel bottle on the butt-end
            of every sinking ship         No, I don’t need to

torture-n-rack that amoebic memory of the time I lost my virginity, which I don’t
            remember too clearly anyway—or that day

I got caught picking my nose in first grade, the trailing flower girls
            petaling shame, shame     I don’t want

to track how many steps it takes me to reach Chimney Rock, or bookmark every page
            in my Browser History      Believe me some secrets

want to leap from the Golden Gate and heave into the turbid bay, its anonymous
            blue cresting into angels’ brief, shorn

wings    I don’t keep a good record of all my losses, for casualties,
            remember, are the dead     and the injured

No, there’s really no place     for my favorite word landfill or my old dog
            who used to roll on dead animals    A man

once told me I’m cold for a woman        Another said I don’t
            deserve      No, I couldn’t solve the paradox—

how many griefs would I have to remove from my heap of griefs
            until it no longer crushes me?    At a rainy spring

graduation the commencement speaker says I can’t wait to upload
            my consciousness to the internet       I’m uneasy

with anything that stinks of the Singularity,          of my heartbeat
            becoming prosody          Sometimes I think my doing

is more like don’ting           moving always on the great American script
            of interchanges and exits        No, I don’t wish to make

more of the mouthful of my mother’s cigarettes I gulped from a Diet Rite
            can, the dog with no hair she kept in the spare

room      My poet’s coat of arms is a cowbird on a skittish
            lamb      No, thank you, I think I’ll just lie

down and shut the blinds    Please bring me a sip of water    my mouth’s dry
            and yet you’d ask me to magnify the sun to fire?


Emilia Phillips is the author of three poetry collections from the University of Akron Press, most recently Empty Clip (forthcoming 2018) and Groundspeed (2016). Her poems and lyric essays appear widely in literary publications including AgniBoston ReviewPloughsharesPoetry, and elsewhere. She’s an assistant professor  of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.



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