Emilia Phillips

In vacuo, Universal Studios

2012 Poetry Contest Winner, judged by G.C. Waldrep

We begin in line. We end there.

In the gentle shuffle forward

of our incumbent spell.

We find the school of attention

in the school of boredom,

the danse ennui in the study

of shoes. In the queue,

time moves through a half-solid.

Air is just a fraction

away from liquid. We’re all drowning,

slowly. Especially

in Florida. In my father’s temple,

in the heat, a vein is swollen—

Lethe in my flower… In the fadeless garden…

If we could look inside the living

mind, I imagine versions

of ourselves, minuscule and impure,

in a gridlock on the interstate.

This we call memory

and then forget.

Each time we open the mind,

it dies like a movie

astronaut in a holey spacesuit.

Here, we measure time

in bodies. (My father sweats

through his clothes.)

I lean into the metal

railing, and the heat it holds

enters into me

like information,

burning. Body after body,

we could keep on going—

beyond this moment we’ve existed in

here, past the line

and my father’s old silence,

arriving at his new:

the sequence

of personless photos, mountains

in a war-country he sends

without caption. From these, I get:

“Love exists at terminus;

meaning, in vacuo.

Emilia Phillips received her MFA at Virginia Commonwealth University and serves as the associate literary editor of Blackbird. Her poetry has appeared in many journals including AGNI, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and The Kenyon Review. "In vacuo, Universal Studios" appears in her first manuscript, Signaletics, which was selected as the editor's choice for the 2012 Akron Poetry Prize and will be published by the University of Akron Press in 2013.