Poems: Nagmeh Phelan

The Last Cake

On the night of my party
I washed my hair. I pulled on my brightest dress. And I gurgled.
I tiptoed down the stairs, avoiding the squeaky first and sixth.
Blow up the balloons. Make the punch. Nothing’s done.
I’m doing it, he said.
I dragged the carpet to the left.
The bell rang. I muttered I’m sick of this. I put on my smile.
Kisses. Bellows. Laughter.
We’re great, I said.
We’re great, he said.
The voices grew louder and louder as if we couldn’t hear each other.
He held out the cake. The candles glowed. And I burned on the inside.
Make a wish, they yelled.
He kissed me on the cheek. Cold like leftovers.
I looked straight ahead. The window waved. There was another side.
I wrung the dregs of us and held his hand.
The night ended.
And so did we.


How We Age

Hairs white like
rancid acid oozing out of a battery
in a remote control car
bought by a grandmother
who knows morsels of the child
she is gifting,
girdled in her
grownup parade of
beads worn
on fingers
playing cards
passing days
purposefully empty
of woes bigger
than choosing
the right Tupperware
for leftovers
never meant to be,
based on an estimate
of bites that each guest was to have.


The Great Sadness of Ben Affleck

Men who adjust themselves in public
marry women who wear matching scarves, hats, mitts

Men who adjust themselves
adjust themselves
to lick their own wounds only

Wound only

leaving traces
of truth where once rivers bloomed

When can you afford to not tell the truth?
The court has assembled
You sit in clothes selected by a stylist
You hold your hands together as practiced
Not clasped, but in a power mood pointing up like a mountain
The mountain as a witness
You adjust yourself in public
to perform rehearsed replies
as though the truth is a fool
Ben Affleck knows it is not
Ben Affleck knows that soldiers don’t march at the same frequency
when crossing a bridge


Nagmeh Phelan resides in Toronto with her family. Her work has appeared in Room. Find her @somesomersaults.

Submit a comment