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Available at Grolier Poetry Bookshop and Harvard University Press


digital issue available via HUP website

 from Peripheries issue 6

00:00 / 01:49

On the most westerly Blasket
In a dry-stone hut
He got this air out of the night.

-Seamus Heaney, The Given Note

Ocean-exposed like the smallest Blasket:
Luanda’s isthmus, a northernmost hut,
And a sail staring out at it through the night.

They knew that was no crescent moon, had heard
Of others dragged into the white, their tune
Silver as shark and sword and loud weather,

As much a bleak code as a melody.
There was no preparing for it, an ear
Either knew it or not, nothing easy,

A continent turned into an island,
An island turned into pain. Take this thing,
They heard, this is your first violin.

So whether they called it sacred music
Or not, I don’t know if I care. Here it
Was: the ancient-modern mid-Atlantic

Song of a somewhere turned into nowhere.
And nowhere to hide they listened gravely,
As an iron note inched closer on air.

Rowan Ricardo Phillips’ next book of poems, Silver, will be published in March 2024 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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