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Phillip Sterling

Longing (as a Form of Consummation)

July is the most salacious month

having waited until this very morning

to bring me to the screened-in porch

its odor of rain and weary wicker

and the name of the glowing girl

who was here just moments ago

wondering what the pinkish flowers

beside the steps outside were called

(So beautiful! they were her favorites)

and I didn’t know until now and now

she is no longer here and hasn’t been

for more than fifty years give or take

No Constellation

Not where the boat is, but where the sound of its passengers have gone. No grunt

or snort, no wheeze of common lung, no lunge. No rustle of synthetic. No creak

of belt when bodies turn, blood throbbing in the vessels of a numb arm.

At certain times I have known these sounds: troops of

small boys camped on the dull floor of a church assembly room, halfway to

Jamboree, uniforms mustered like distant cousins drawn to family reunion, its

whiff of wet tropics, of unripe bananas . . . the pretense of armament.

And yet, among those who now wait for the boat—foreign notes

sewn into our clothes, notes meant to play on foreign instruments—there is

speechlessness so deep as to be unfathomable. Oh, there are scents of seaweed

and crab, the palmettos’ moony shadows, a pledge of seabird and trade winds

. . . but no one speaking of it, no sound to give us away. No account to be made.


Phillip Sterling’s books include two full-length collections of poetry (And Then Snow, Mutual Shores), and five chapbook-length volumes of poems, the most recent of which, Short on Days, was released in June 2020. Main Street Rag will publish Local Congregation: Poems Uncollected 1985-2015 in Fall 2023. A pre-order discount is available at


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