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Michael Philips

Dog Lover

I don’t care for Reggie’s dog.
It leaps backwards like a circus trick
when I make a friendly move towards him
Crazy fucked up dog

I don’t like Carla’s dog either.
It retreats to the kitchen when I approach
And acts like I’m the jinx of the world.
God damned fucked up dog

Tom’s dog likes me
But it likes everyone.
How can you just reflexively trust everyone?
You’re bound to get smacked doing that.
Stupid fucked up dog

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Prank

The night I snuck an electronic megaphone
Into a jazz club
I hesitated before doing so
Pranks are great but this one could end up dumb
Nothing in life is worse than a pathetic prank

After the third tune
After the obligatory applause had died down
I shouted, amplified, “Play some Monk! ”
That was bad enough
I did it again after he started playing his dumb ballad
The bouncer looked at me with sideways indifference when I did it
A third time
At him
On the sidewalk

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Golf Pro

There are two types of people:
Those who play golf,
And those who recognize it
for the idiotic malpractice that it is,
that recognize it for the land wasting,
water guzzling, pesticide and herbicide
carcinogen drenched
leeching into the groundwater,
sanitized version of nature,
Bob Hope celebrity goofball,
mundane polo shirt and jackass slacks,
elitist, history of bigotry, racism, sexism,
and anti-Semitism, over-priced, over-rated,
time-wasting, posing-as-a-sport
moronic indulgence that it is.
I’m the first type.

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The One True Religion

I.
Researchers say Mormons have continued
to posthumously baptize Jewish Holocaust victims
into their faith despite a promise to discontinue the practice

II.
Members who write letters seeking to resign
will be contacted by church leaders to make sure
they're not being pressured, and that they understand
the consequences for their Souls

III.
His hearing was June 15,
held before 15 assembled church leaders.
Twelve men from the high council and three state presidents –
All just to kick out one gay man who wants to be out.
He felt like one letter should have done it

IV.
Family members who had not known he was gay

[...] Read more

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Prison As Metaphor

The time was almost right
for the recitation of a poem
when the judge asked me
if I had anything to say before sentencing.

I wanted to say Yes – why the 'anything to say' ritual?
To make me squirm
before the varnished gavel comes down?
Oh, and why the gavel ritual?

But I said No.
I am guilty
so there is nothing else you need to know about me,
My crime, not me,
sits in a cell with green walls
When I arrived I would not lie down
Because that would make it my home

A voice on the radio says
“My life feels like prison.”

[...] Read more

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My Whole Family Is Dysfunctional

I.
I haven’t spoken to my brother in ten years.
His brain was slammed in a car accident,
never got any therapy because dad didn’t believe in it.
Somehow he came into some money
and spent it on surplus military vehicles,
which he leases to Hollywood from time to time.

II.
When my dad’s appendix burst, he didn’t know it,
tried to kill the pain with bourbon,
finally phoning me in delirious distress
and I called the ambulance.
My sister wouldn’t let the paramedics in.
The police came with a megaphone,
busted down the door.

III.
I hadn’t spoken to my alcoholic mother in 13 years
when a stranger called and said she was dying.

[...] Read more

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Do Not Resuscitate

Saturated in morphine
breathing like a hurt animal
maybe somewhere deep down
at the bottom of the mineshaft
a little light was flickering.
We spoke to her, sometimes loudly,
We held her hand and felt its warmth
We stroked her hair.

We expected the end in hours or a day,
More morphine and more wild animal rasping
on into the morning and the next morning.
Work days are missed, meetings postponed,
return flights canceled, everyone thinking
please hurry up, and feeling guilty for it,
asking the doctor how long now, and
how could her oxygen level be going back up.

More morphine and more animal breathing.
Just as she lived her life

[...] Read more

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Bagging Kid Charlemagne

You cannot see the upper reaches of Everest
from the base camp, where you acclimatize
with attitude and finger exercises.

In starting your embrace of the peak,
You must move with an almost monotonous precision,
perfecting each phrase, bend, hammer, and lift-off,
owning each measure before moving
across hours to Camp Two,
then Camp Three,
each section with its hurdles and mazes,
your mind bobbing like a pigeon’s head
searching for the path

After Camp Four
and across the Hillary Step
with the Kid’s summit in sight
your fingers fluid and rippling,
repeating impossible runs
until they can be sold as easy,

[...] Read more

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I’ll Still Be Dead

After I die
some will mourn
Others will put on the face of mourning
They’ll gather together at two o’clock
and be home for dinner.
They’ll be wondering what’s for dinner.
Maybe they planned ahead and defrosted something.
Meanwhile, I’ll still be dead,
and all of my passions and sexual adventures and
school exams and career choices and career dead-ends
will have vanished with the whack of a baseball bat.
They’ll scatter my ash someplace pretty
but most of it will mix with dust and grime
and deposit itself on unremarkable fields or
sink to the bottom of water.
That’s okay because I’ll still be dead.

Springtime will burst with blossoms and bugs
and turn to summer
Kids will graduate and parents will smile

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Go Ahead, Call Me A Pig, I’ve Heard Worse

(A narrative)

Met her at the seminar and asked her over for an
early dinner. I assured her my aim was not to get
into her pants. I said, “It would be too soon for
me.” I use that line all the time and they usually
buy it.

Showed her some poetry books, asked about her
childhood and her family. I don’t even remember
her answers. She showed me some pictures from
her wallet – her cousin or a friend or something,
I don’t remember.

I displayed confidence in the kitchen but not too
much, more like a world-weary confidence, as if
I’d been doing this chef thing for years, adding
pinches of things with an understated flourish,
displaying the requisite false modesty after I fed
her a sip of the sauce with the wooden spoon, with

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