Contributor Notes

D. Phillip Clifford

D. Phillip Clifford

D. Phillip Clifford

The Moon That Lights My Dead Father



The moon might rest




satisfied the coroner could eat his lunch


and not feel odd


thinking satin


doesn’t actually wrinkle


under a mat of hair and head,


and thirty-eight degrees is not too cold to smoke,


if there is reason enough,


that coffin-wise, a man looks greased like catfish.


Men got laid with that look,


crying Agnes! Agnes! Damn, Agnes!


And the moon could rest,


be a river or a lover


or a jukebox or a sire,


blue and sheared of the mortality


that could teach a boy


light does play tricks,


and all of Whitman’s preaching could not


make this body sing anything


but a woman’s name during orgasm.





How You Stumbled Through



Sometimes the first snow in this city is not white.

Nor is it unique and infinite in its hopeful patterning.


It divides itself, doubles itself,

becomes crunch under heel, toe, heel toe...


Sometimes its form can gradually change

as it whirls in on itself to become mortar


between the red bricks and arsenical mood

of a washed out Eden-space in the suburbs.


It is dusky and muscled and common,

like the forearms that got you going in bars,


or riding electric down the tumble of alleyways

for the grope and scratching of a goodbye hum.


In a city of a million perspectives only yours counted.

Scavenged and shawled from the cold.


I want to believe

this is what I miss about you--


the sensation that the city is not still an image

of cast iron branches, leafless and hushed.


I want you to tell me of your mistakes,

but I am wrecking myself, jacking off in dark places.


 I am not ashamed that you may see me,

May smell that sour floating scent,


and say, “Something is dead.”

I am relieved something haunts me.


Tell me of your desire for a black man, for any black man.

Tell me while your ass was propped up on pillows


and your legs sprawled like oakwood,

making it all up as you went along.


Make me believe that it was the sixties

and “that’s just what we did back then.”


Help me stop seeing your stockings around your ankles,

that look of fear and sacrifice on your face.


Tell me,

then I can stop honking this goddamed horn.


Tell me again how you stumbled through

a drunken husband, three kids, and a good Catholic life


to find me.





Dancing Away into the Orphanage



And I know

how I exhausted


the brown Pinto you


stumbling around in the garage.


I worked

the fluttering of my hands



to get your attention,


to practice this long series of goodbyes.


In this poem,

themed in ratchets,

sockets &



a carburetor

and an old jar of joints,

I know exactly what I should tell you.


To salt the places

you entered

as a little boy,


you never returned.

Every night


you were dancing



into the orphanage,

the shrubs,

the corner of your sheets, drunk.


So I insult you

to mourn you.



to the same music.



You did all the wrong steps.


That dirt-buzzing sound you made

grew eternal,

like you,


like a 1978 Pinto,

or an old jar of joints.





Brothers Trying to Get Up



Jesus smoked Parliaments,

all the cool brothers did.


Probably talked shit too,

telling tales

of brothers trying to get up off their asses


and move on...