Social Death, an Address

Xandria Phillips

I write to you from the predicament of Blackness.You see, I’ve been here all my life and found,on the atomic level, it’s impossible to walk throughmost doorways. I can, however, move throughwalls. I write to you from the empty seat that isn’tempty. I write to you when a feel is copped.I write myself out of bed. I write to you as the spookwho sat by the door. I write to you from OliviaPope’s apolitical mouth. I am here because I couldnever get the hang of body death, though it has beenpresented to me like one would offer a roofied cocktailor high-interest loan. I am only here because I startedeating again. I am only here because I am ineligibleto exist otherwise. I’m only here because I left andreturned through an Atlantic wormhole. I write to you asthe American version of me. In the American version,Orpheus’ lyre is a gun. Eurydice thinks of doctors,or, rather a cold hand. It feels like one is sliding its sterilenails over the curtains of her womb. Once, a healer’s handspassed through my flesh, and I went on trial for stealingten fingers. When my spoon scrapes the bottom of a bowlit sounds like a choir of siblings naming stars after their favoritemeals. Physicists are classifying new matters and energiesevery day. Dark matter, Black flesh are in high demand,and we never see a penny. I urge you. If you see a sisterwalk through walls or survive the un-survivable, sip yourdrink and learn to forget or love the taxed apparition before you.

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Xandria Phillips is a writer, abstract artist, and educator from rural Ohio. The recipient of the Judith A. Markowitz Award for Emerging Writers, and a LAMBDA Literary Award for their book HULL (Nightboat Books 2019), Xandria has received fellowships from Brown University, Callaloo, Cave Canem, The Conversation Literary Festival, Oberlin College, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. Xandria is also a Dream Space Residency recipient at the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, and their chapbook, Reasons for Smoking, won the 2016 Seattle Review Chapbook Contest judged by Claudia Rankine. Their poetry has been featured in American Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, BOMB Magazine, Crazyhorse,, and Virginia Quarterly Review.

“In the tradition of Natasha Trethewey and Danez Smith, Phillips sees a through line from slavery to racism past and present. HULL is their bold indictment of prejudice.”
—Rebecca Foster, Foreword

“’Let’s deflate something that we can all agree is / monstrous, and take its air inside us,’” writes Xandria Phillips in ‘Elegy for the Living and Breathing.’ A decolonization of space and self is made physical in this stunning, textured, and ambitious collection of poems. This work positions snapshots of contemporary black, queer selfhood against an embodied historical backdrop in order to trace the tolls and infringements of white dominant structures and embedded historical violence upon the body. When I read it, I am reminded of the ways in which language can be repurposed as an amplification device against narratives that seek to erase, bury, and diminish. The poems in Reasons for Smoking articulate how living, touching, noticing, speaking, and remembering are necessary and subversive acts.”
—Claudia Rankine

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