October Tilling

in five acts

by Matt Phillips



These are the long, rolling nights that
stretch themselves out like cornfields,
cruel enough & kind enough
as to be unforgettable —-


Tonight, a band & a cigarette man.
I bide my time.
& I recall that cornfield: that guardian:
the night it wrapped me in safe,
cul-de-sac arms & smiled as —
throat mingling smoke & iced tea —
I charted centaur & bow, lion & dipper,
or the night it mocked me a stranger:
100 deer leering with wanton, yellow’d eyes
& I an unwelcome guest at this ritual.


Tonight, a band & a cigarette man.
Build altars ‘round this loneliness & launch us into song.
It’s not that no one tells you these nights will come.
It’s that no one is able to chart for you the specifics
of how a quiet kind of sorrow will descend into the
crevices of your bedframe & make you long for the
glow of McDonald’s at two in the morning, the
unimpressive food at the trailer-driver diner with
the waitress who hasn’t quite escaped her goth phase
(but your friend pines nonetheless), the sharp,
disorienting breeze that you could manufacture
routinely going 100 on 76 at three.
(Nothing could make us bold like that.)
What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that things glow different
when you’re only vaguely conscious of their existence.


Tonight, a band & a cigarette man.
Toot-toot, bap-bap, all’s well & good.
& truthfully & honestly it’s hard to even blame anybody.
I’ve left graveyards behind anyway, & —
though forgive me, I’m not an expert here —
but I think there’s something about it all coming back

to us now, & if it is, then please, keep it coming;
really, rocketship it, even;
I figure I can use the baptism.


Tonight, a band & a cigarette man.
& if someone can explain how,
older & no more judicious,
I’m smaller now than ever before,
please do. Consider this a posting.
Kind of like a HELP WANTED.
& then talk me all the way back to a place where McFlurries were just beautiful, my love.

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