Enjoy these poems by Logan Phillips, Writer in Residence

Logan Phillips, our Summer 2018 Writer in Residence, was kind enough to share a couple of poems from his award-winning book, Sonoran Strange. Enjoy!

Sonoran Strange


El bisabuelo de tu tatarabuelo es ahora
aquel arroyo que serpentea en la montaña.

Rillito rillín, riote río
Rio-ito más pequeño cada año
Rillito rillín, riote río
Cada año, más arena que agua

Bats get a good day’s sleep
while the city rushes in circles.
Bats whose new caves are under the bridges
built to hold the hurry of the city:
overpass caverns.

Do bats dream in sonar, wings pulled tight?
What is the pitch of high noon?
What does a stoplight sound like?
Who are the oldest poblanos of the Old Pueblo?

Rillito rillín, luego cae la noche, radiante.

At dusk, you can watch the shadows flip over themselves
in somersault as the sun sinks its heat
on the heavy mirage of the horizon jagged.

The saguaro sundials stand still.
The sunset stops traffic,
El atardecer arde prendido.

This is when the desert inhales
after holding its breath all day, the moment
the bridges let their cement bones creak
when the skies let their colors leak.

This is when the desert lets its life show,
ghost sand water begins to flow,
life comes out into the night.

Night flowers begin
to bloom, a reflection of stars.

Murciélagos, estos residentes persistentes,
esta gente desértica, voladora, bailadora
dip duck dive feeding through the sunset:

bats, bits
of night
sky broken
off, flirting
with fading daylight,
a living cloud of ink.

¿De qué son los sueños de murciélagos?
¿De bichos deliciosos y voladores?
¿De un Rillito con agua?
¿De las noches sin faroles?

Río-ito, agua mito
aun en agosto.

Rillito we call you río-ito
little river smaller every year,

After every year,
Rillito rechiquito.

¿Pero es río pequeño
o es río empequeñicido?
¿Quién traga el Rillito enterito?
What are the bats dreaming about,
as their wings bend in ballet?

Who gets invited to eat at the water table?
Who has lost their water table manners?
Who drinks too much?
Who remembers the Rillito as more than sand?
Who drinks eight glasses a day?
Who putts eighteen holes a day?
Who sprays pesticides every day?
Who drinks too much, leaving only sand?

Flirting with the first dark of night,

esta gente desértica, voladora, bailadora,

the living night of this desert,
the living desert in this night,
murciélagos sobrevivientes
floreciendo bajo los puentes.

Murciélagos sobrevivientes floreciendo bajo los puentes.


Presidio of Tucson, May 1856

Late sun; sweat
pulled from the pores
by the giant sweat-eating sky.
Slowly drying up
there, spirits and steel.

Under suicide glide of sun, fifty nearly dead
drunk on periphery of presidio. Whiskey
in wounded wood, barrel from back
where whiskey is born, brought on
wagon train to the edge, to the adobe
fortress under changing flags.
Dark liquor & dark lips.

Leather is a type of skin.
Barrel tastes like gunmetal,
like the fingers near the lips.

Sun-hot, glass made with lead,
oil dancing on the outskirts of water

Whiskey, well-sat in sun, burning
the gut, held in its skeleton racks;
the barrel bound in its metal straps.

Camped there along the Santa Cruz,
the Chiricahuas are sold a barrel, sold

a slow powder keg,
a weapon to dull the stories.

Alcohol—a way of negotiating,
sign language of fist and grimace.

Alcohol held in the gut
as the horizon grows dim.


Dragoon Mountains, October 1872

Dawn the color of a coal held on the tongue.
An awakening of horses. Flies about the mouth
and nose after whiskey vespers, interment of fire ring.

Morning of the meeting near Slavin Gulch,
council held on rocks
in a stronghold of granite.
The collision of concepts and poetics.
Fingers slide across rifle throats,
communication through an intermediary.

Gunsights—a technique for seeing eye to eye,
ay to ay yay, a swollen tongue, a loss of consonants;
not a loss of territory but of a reality, a language.

Terms of surrender—if Geronimo then Crook,
if Bascom then Camp Grant, if massacre then massacre,
if territory then genocide—a simplification of terms,
a weaponization of language.

Treaty written in script of barbwire:
word equation of Western logic,
rectangle of civilized men,
geometry of European progress, division.

The first day of hereafter:
as long as the stone shall last,
this peace will remain unbroken.

Litany of canyon wren,
daggered teeth of acacia,
rocks the color of dawn.

Surrender—a giving-over into the hands
of another—a manner of consenting to oblivion?

Logan Phillips is the author of several chapbooks. Phillips’ first full-length book, a borderlands poem cycle, Sonoran Strange, was a Pima County Public Library Southwest Books of the Year Top Pick.