The Lunatic, The Lover, and the Poet

Rowan Ricardo Phillips

And, after the explosion, made spheres sing,
A pure expression of pure poetry,
Like rising rain or a nation with no
Flag—. Something that whispers as the air
Does just before the lightning comes. A pure
Expression of the breaks in the blank lakes
On Neptune’s moons. A ruined expression
Of pure poetry. A pure expression
Of ruined poetry. Either will do.
A pure expression of pure poetry
In the podcasts of the pine trees will do.
We will say we do not want it because
We will say we do not want it because.
A pure expression of pure poetry
That boiled in the blur of the first atom.There’s a screen to tell you what pleasure is,
Who pleasure is, when pleasure is, and why.
You hold it in your hand and feel all things
As though the sheer, unseen rings of Neptune,
Blue hued, were spinning there in your hand.
Look up from this poem and you will see
The long work of chaos and order cooled
Into this perceivable form of life,
Something manageable from the bow shock,
Where the end of the Earth’s influence bends
Like a bow of light across the awful
Endlessness of the ever-cold ether.
The long work of chaos and order plugged
Into something else that’s plugged into
Something else that’s plugged into the air.
You play Kevin Bacon with it until
It bends like the first flare of plasma bent.
A pure expression of pure poetry.The world is on fire. I see you across
A moving haze of invisible flames
That blurs the bruised mind to melisma.
The scream is closer. The magma sky, too.
A man hauls crate after crate of rifles
Into a hotel. A child is shot dead
On the spot as he plays with a toy gun
In a park. Some small-town lawyer calls
The melting world a myth and yet believes
In prayer, that God hears and cares for him
And somehow, amid thirteen billion years
Of stars to care for, has time for his shit.
What’s the difference, if not love? And where did
It all go so, so wrong? I remember
You, nose to nose in the bang, holding on.

Feature Date


Selected By

Share This Poem

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

Print This Poem

Share on print

Rowan Ricardo Phillips’s latest book, The Circuit: a Tennis Odyssey, will be published in November.

The Paris Review

Summer 2018

New York, New York

Emily Nemens

Managing Editor
Hasan Altaf

Online Editor
Nadja Spiegelman

Assistant Online Editor
Brian Ransom

Assistant Editor
Lauren Kane

Poetry Editor
Vijay Seshadri

Since its founding 1953, The Paris Review has been America’s preeminent literary quarterly, dedicated to discovering the best new voices in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The Review’s renowned Writers at Work series of interviews is one of the great landmarks of world literature. Hailed by the New York Times as “the most remarkable interviewing project we possess,” the series received a George Polk Award and has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. With the December 2016 redesign of the Review’s website, the complete digital archive of everything we’ve published since 1953 is available to subscribers. In November 2017, the Review gave voice to nearly sixty-five years of writing and interviews with the launch of its first-ever podcast, featuring a blend of classic stories and poems, vintage interview recordings, and new work and original readings by the best writers of our time.

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.