Shell Music – Poetry by Jennifer M. Phillips

Shell Music

Joint First Place in the Letter Review Prize for Poetry

New Poetry by Jennifer M. Phillips

May 29th, 2023

Some say they hear the voices of the dead
murmuring in kind domestic counsel,
                                        mother, papa, granddad, nan–
from the library of old affection,
their green-glassed lights of wisdom never shelved.
And so I keep listening for you I loved
like a clearing of the throat
                                        in my dear expected places
where the spades and hoes dangle,
or papers fox in the rusty file
propped up by stock reports from a vanished decade,
in the dusty corner under your last shirts
or on the empty apron-hook.

                                        Some say we take these vanished kinfolk in
to a privy chamber of the brain
where they continue to hand their dispatches of advice
to us through the just-cracked door,
                                        but this has not been my experience.

Truth is, some of them had few words for me back then.
Our circles shared a subset of one point,
before time drifted us oceans apart,
yet they remain mute weights in my inward weather.

                                        Across the crusted winter marsh today
as my Dad’s gravel tumbles into the glistening bay
toward Sandy Neck, the tide is going out.
I hear only air circling inside a shell
and feel myself a null hypothesis, a feather, whisper-thin.
Nevertheless, I will keep listening.

Jennifer M. Phillips is a bi-national poet, a retired Episcopal Priest and AIDS Chaplain, gardener, grower of Bonsai, painter, and has been writing and publishing poetry and prose since age seven. Phillips grew up in upstate New York and has lived in New England, London, New Mexico, St.Louis, Rhode Island, & Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Her work has won several awards and appeared in over seventy-five journals. Her two chapbooks are Sitting Safe in the Theatre of Electricity (, 2020) and A Song of Ascents (Orchard Street Press 2022).

Original Artwork by Kita Das