Looking backward: A poetry collection

Illustration of girl in flower fields
Genesis Cruz/Staff

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A meta-retrospective: looking back on a couple of poems I’ve written over the past several years about looking backward.

Gauting, Germany

It was a country of castles, I decided:

Schloss Oberhausen and Hofberg and Passau,

mine yellow where Neuschwanstein was pink, 

broad and commanding,

my easter-egg kingdom.


The oceans of wheat gold and up-blue were mine, see,

because their paths were my bike width and a half

and even white and December-rendered they bore 

the imprints of my dominion.


And I was run-happy and heady with possession because

the tadpoles did my bidding and the trees remembered 

my openings and the birdwatcher built me a hut to read in,

and the summers were strawberries

blackberries gooseberries cherries and redcurrants.


I think I was fuller then but maybe it was because 

I was small and easier to fill, and the swing in the 

back of the backyard let me color in my extra spaces with the sky.


And when my ambition for the things I was told to wait to grow into

seized me and chased me out 

I landed in picket-fence paradise to discover that kids here

didn’t really know how to share what was already theirs 

and in my haste I’d forgotten to suck back

the me that had seeped out into my gold-blue afternoons.


Now my yellow castle’s been reinhabited and misfurnished

and new daydreamy berry-stained children grate 

snowballs into parmesan on my mesh metal tables 

and their two-wheel bikes wobble where my training wheels clattered

and they bend the subjects to their own bidding. 


Well, let them. I’d rather it them than me

trapped in the glass of their kingdom,

as their ever-bigger footprints mash out

the little ones and pastels go out of fashion

and what’s left of the creeping magic is

jumbled up with the brand-new busy-ness

that tips them upside down and empties the sky all out. 


November, 2015


Ten of Twenty 

Where is she, that half-me, that self-contained storyteller 

swingset-swinging in trees she’d leaved with possibilities? 


Where are her beach tears, salty expressions of relief in finally 

meeting this ocean she carries in her brimming, sloshy bucket of a chest?


Who taught her, good-naturedly, to pour out that water, slice

herself up, and pack the bits into boxes, skintight for shipping?


She rolled over and woke me up into a bright-pixelled reality

sending me greased with pride into a blue truth we’d vowed against.


Sometimes, running in tunnels and on hilltops I holler, “Helloooo

(echo echoo), where did you go?”


From the post office, where she’s collecting and reassembling 

the bits that come back with return slips, refilling them, she calls back to me.


March, 2018


Contact Sonnet Phelps at [email protected].

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