I Tried To Write a Poem Called “Impostor Syndrome” and Failed

Emilia Phillips

The way that the sea failsto drown itself every day. And entendre alludes all those not listening.The way unfertilized chicken eggs fail to have imagination,                    dozened out in their cardboard trays,by which I mean they will never break                    openfrom the inside. The way my imagination (née anxiety) has                    bad brakes and a needto stop sometimes. The way I didn't believeit when he told me we were going to crash into the car idling                    at a red lightahead of us. To know our future like that seemed unlikely.                    But to have time to tell me?—Nearly impossible. I may have broken                    several ribs that daybut I will never know for sure. I'm okay,I guessed aloud to the paramedic. It doesn't matter                    if you're broken if you're broke,I moaned in bed that night, after several glasses                    of cheap red. I thought it would make a good bluesrefrain. I made myselflaugh and so I made myself hurt—Memoirs by Emilia Phillips, goes the joke.A friend of mine competes in beard and mustache tournaments,even though she can't grow one herself—Once, she donned a Santa Claus made entirely out of hot-glued tampons.It was as white as the spots in memories I doubt.The first womanI kissed who had never kissed a woman beforecouldn't get over how soft my face is,even the scar. Once,a famous poet said what's this and touched my facewithout asking—his thumb like a cat's tongue on the old wound.He must have thought he was givingme a blessing.

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Felipe Troncoso

Emilia Phillips (she/they) is the author of four poetry collections from the University of Akron Press, including Embouchure (2021), and four chapbooks. Winner of a 2019 Pushcart Prize and a 2019–2020 NC Arts Council Fellowship, Phillips’s poems, lyric essays, and book reviews appear widely in literary publications including The Adroit Journal, Agni, American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, The New York Times, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. She’s a faculty member in the MFA Writing Program and the Department of English and cross-appointed faculty in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at UNC Greensboro.

Cover of Embouchure

Akron, Ohio

The University of Akron

"Phillips (Empty Clip) dissects in her bracing latest the often-bewildering needs, desires, and betrayals of the body with funny and forthright emotional honesty. She assiduously reconstructs the experience of realizing she was queer in adulthood, both the confusion and the joy of knowing something is missing and then discovering what it is. 'I admit I searched how to fuck a woman on the internet—/ because my truth came late as my last period,' she writes. Phillips has a unique talent for capturing the indignities of adolescence—the awkwardness of sex education, for example, but also becoming a woman and being expected to conform to new and confusing standards of behavior."
Publishers Weekly

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