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Philip Metres

Twin Sonnets for Sierra and Ellery, Who Made Me Uncle


     1.   Sierra


She writhed in the tourniquet

of tears for days like years,

foreclosed from the womb,

her legs folded beneath her


unable, unwilling to move on.

Now she is scoot and cackle,

her radius of home widening

like sunrise light. A face


rising to meet our sleep, 

and arms reaching, inviting

arms to descend. So much soft

to shield from the dread angles


of every made thing. Eyes

so open everything falls in.




      2.    Ellery


When she cranes her head

back to see the sunk origins

of my voice, to smile

my eyes, the tule fog


lifts from me. She gums

sand handfuls, boardbooks,

uncle—everything passing

for gnawing—and greets


each spoken sentence open-


Ploughs her brows when

thinking, then returns to


high-beaming. I’m poured

into the courage of grins.

Bel Canto



You tilted my wells, dizzied my head

           wings. Now tender my bell. Blend my word


hoard with your sing sing. You

           taught me the tunes of Katyusha


& Uzi, now mend me in tidal pool

           hiding Aphrodite. Baby please.


You sniper’s souvenir, ringing in

           the chambered brain. Bloom from no bud.


Though the skull has no memorial

           for ears, you breathe in their bowls, you love

lure, you dulcimer stream. Anvil

           you hammer pneumatic, year by year,


come to drown everything. Trumpet
           you play and play me by inhaling.



So give it to me

straight, my Mute,

how much longer

do I have to live?


Our toddler cries after

her mother: “I want me.”

She’s already tasted

the thirst of departure.


The hour will come—

advanced in years

I will sing, I will tell,

my mouth shall


be filled. I will

not be afraid.

Philip Metres 2018 headshot Heidi Rolf.j

Philip Metres has written numerous books, including Shrapnel Maps (2020), The Sound of Listening (2018), and Sand Opera (2015). He was awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim and Lannan Foundations, and three Arab American Book Awards. Philip Metres is professor of English and director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University.

Photo by Heidi Rolph

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