Poems by Stephen Philbrick

As Though A Grocer Sat In His House

They need me, every hour they need me and I cried,
not because they need so much,
but because they need so bad.

They need me to ‘facilitate’
to call their crazy friend
not to say a word, but listen to a world.
Then there’s the mother cherishing her child
to the point of cleaning and folding and tucking his soul away
in a cedar chest,
to keep it safe from moths —
for never and a day.

How much they need.
How little it is, what they ask me to do.

It is as though a grocer sat in the morning light,
sat before he went to open up the store,
sat in his house and cried
because people are so hungry and all he has is food.

Just The Dark Of An April Moon

Passion riddles the familiar landscape.
Like some neighbor’s house turned inside-out
by police and ambulance light, by sirens and stretchers and questions.

Say you find a rusted-out Ford by an abandoned stone wall in the woods:
isn’t the body shot through with .22’s?
weren’t they pointed by some forgotten boys ?
and could the boys ever forget the thrill of the windshield
crazing and webbing and finally caving in
beneath stones cast for the sheer destruction of it?

Or: listen to the owls these nights;
what do the owls know?
The death-in-life and life-in-death that is their hunting?
Or the death-in-life and life-in-death that is their mating?

Look at the big hole in the woods
where once there was a small hole
where hornets passed in and out of their underground nest.
Then the skunk — who else?
impenetrable fur and fell claws and impossible smell: awefull! —
the skunk dug up the nest and ate the larvae.

Something is running through the swamps these nights,
tongue out, tail flat out, claws out,
testicles descended, territory defended,
eggs flecked and flocked and ready to drop;
hot on the scent, smelling like heat;
too deep in the dark to hear; too deep in the swamp to see;
but too deep in the blood to ignore.

The ridge resounds with it, through the feet;
the heart hears what the ears can’t and waits and hopes;
and all the quiet earth pricks up and heaves itself open.

Now, that’s passion.
It’s what we inherit;
it’s how we inherit.

And that’s just the dark of an April moon;
that’s just the spurt of spring,
the holy ghost of Easter passing through the husk of tomorrow
and the dry leaves that last year shed.

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