Phillip B. Williams, Poetry


Whiting Awards 2017

Phillip B. Williams. Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.


Phillip B. Williams is the author of Thief in the Interior, a finalist for an NAACP Image Award, and winner of the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He received a 2013 Ruth Lilly Fellowship and is the co-editor-in-chief of the online journal Vinyl. He is currently visiting professor in English at Bennington College. He lives in Portland, Oregon.



O darling, the moon did not disrobe you.
You fell asleep that way, nude
and capsized by our wine, our bump

n’ grind shenanigans. Blame it
on whatever you like; my bed welcomes
whomever you decide to be: hung-

mistress, bride’s bouquet, John Doe
in the alcove of my dreams. You
can quote verbatim an entire album

of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony with your ass
in the air. There’s nothing
wrong with that. They mince syllables

as you call me yours. You don’t
like me but still invite me to your home
when your homies aren’t near

enough to hear us crash into each other
like hours. Some men have killed
their lovers because they loved them

so much in secret that the secret kept
coming out: wife gouging her husband
with suspicion, churches sneering

when an usher enters. Never mind that.
The sickle moon turns the sky into
a man’s mouth slapped sideways

to keep him from spilling what no one would
understand: you call me god when it
gets good though I do not exist to you

outside this room. Be yourself or no one else
here. Your do-rag is camouflage-patterned
and stuffed into my mouth.


Read more work from the 2017 Whiting Award honorees.