Anniversary by Siobhan Phillips

When is it time to say goodbye or hello?


When I was a kid, the trick was, remain so calm
that a chickadee would fly down and peck
seed from your palm.
We stood for long afternoons.
Sometimes you don’t have the touch.
Now the best tenderness is whatever you try
when it’s not enough to say how could you have known.

Outside a moth knocks his soft head on the screen,
trusting at once to a dozen different ways in.
Look. Any one of them won’t mean the moon.
It’s late; I’m alone,

cleaning the dry birdbath out in the gloom.
I’m thinking of talking to you, years back, from the lawn
of the conference dorm.
I’m beaten, I said. I’m done.
I watched a skunk coast out of the blue-green dusk
and I sucked in my breath, quiet, ’til it moved on,
you calling hello? what is it? into the phone.

Photo: xandra m


Siobhan Phillips’s poems and essays have appeared in The Toast, Yale Review, The Massachusetts Review, Ladowich and other publications. She teaches at Dickinson College and lives in Carlisle, Penn., and Los Angeles.