Photo by Marion Ettlinger
Photo by Marion Ettlinger

By Patrick Phillips

It will be the past
and we’ll live there together.

Not as it was to live
but as it is remembered.

It will be the past.
We’ll all go back together.

Everyone we ever loved,
and lost, and must remember.

It will be the past.
And it will last forever.

Today’s poem is from the collection Boy (The University of Georgia Press, 2008, © Patrick Phillips), and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Patrick PhillipsElegy for a Broken Machine was published in 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf. A recent Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellow in poetry, he is the author of two earlier collections, Boy and Chattahoochee, and translator of When We Leave Each Other: Selected Poems of Henrik Nordbrandt. His work has appeared in many magazines, including Poetry, Ploughshares, and The Nation, and his honors include the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Lyric Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America. He lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Drew University.

Editor’s Note: I came across today’s poem on the New York subway as part of the MTA/Poetry Society of America collaboration, “Poetry in Motion.” Whenever I see a poem on the subway I read it. Of course I do. How often does one come across poetry in public spaces in America these days? But not since I came across Reznikoff’s “If There is a Scheme” on the PATH train has a poem in a public space so moved me.

What is so wonderful about today’s poem? Is it the way it plays with time, making the future of the past? “It will be the past / and we’ll live there together.” Is it the subtle way the poet uses rhyme and repetition, as if the poem were a lullaby — “together / remembered / together / remember / forever”? Or is it the promise of the poem? That within our future lies our past, that heaven is where we might relive our memories over and over, that we will be reunited there with everyone we ever loved, “And it will last forever.”

Want more from Patrick Phillips?
Buy Elegy for a Broken Machine from Amazon
Patrick Phillips’ Official Website


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