White Whale Review: An Online Literary Magazine Untitled Document
Philip Matthews
Philip Matthews is a St. Louis-based poet whose practice is rooted in Petal, a consciousness he explores through writing, drag performance, yoga, and collaborative work with photographers Carly Ann Faye and David Johnson. Recent poems have appeared in Denver Quarterly, Tammy, and Please Hold Magazine. As Assistant Curator of Public Projects at Pulitzer Arts Foundation, he has curated an installation of video poetry and essay by Claudia Rankine, Thylias Moss, and John Bresland; and workshops by Bhanu Kapil that intersect bodywork and poetic rituals with social activism. This October through next April, he will be in residence as a Writing Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. He received his MFA in 2011 from Washington University in St. Louis.

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Philip Matthews

The Tranny Ballet



A petal was a shing mirror.

A petal watched a leap.

I walked into that light and the audience


were bacterial, set against a cloudy sky,

only partly mine.

I came to a point I did not feel supported


by my role: like trying to balance on a branch

blown vertical

and simultaneously apologizing for my phallus.



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The set was burning. I brought my hoof closer to my sister's face,

(we were playing the role of siblings) and turned her ember eye

to the skylight.



There was the claw. There was the cross-thrush

of branches / quilt / scratch marks.

I bent / around / my sister,



gazing towards an orbit and following. The audience

were too much to think about, I thought, and turned my attention

to smaller flashes:


a leaf's light on a costume, a stole line

of thread, a silken hoof and the girl attached to it,

pushing me away. The room



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was split into: mine, "hers," and the audience

delicately arranging their feet. Turning was a vertical feat,

and what a shamble


to mistakenly drop the rock from my head

and silently signal my sister to return it.



Mountain-hard water.




Kiss: a rolling bloom.




These were instructions I repeated to myself

to get through a sex scene.

I attempted to keep my posture,

but my feet were shining mirrors:


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alit a rock,

alit a wig and bramble,

alit a thorn's puncture, alit a face

turned into television,

alit a woman's hand, girl with

rabbit's claw, dancing the swan

wings, out-retched and soiled, the blindfolded

head and sink-enk,

avoiding an ax.


Then the upswing was as a swung

mirror, the

audience tangled in white.






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the waves of a cracked branch







Slowly each rough face feathered,

and flickered over the blue eggs; water

like a mattress filled in

to a certain height. There were 4

nests in the water,

four goose-head

satellites to a core



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which was the

rubbed bodyflesh each


head wanted. My body

quaked inside the water like a live-oak


; I called into my neck for

vocal cords, finding none

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Pointed Venus



Tracing lines of fungi on petrified bark - up the scat-covered path, grandmother

is reading - pulls up a skirt and shows the melanoma mark where a scar will be -

trunk inman - the sift sound of creekwater under trash;

small wigs of green pineneedles and ate-bluejay the only feature in an alley;

Grey log, hypoglycemen, constellated mushroom, nightdrop, 1982;

Petal is a sequence fear,

Petal is twisting the knuckles of a new bark into her preference







Copyright © Philip Matthews. White Whale Review, issue 8.1

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