The 44 poems in this volume are a mixture of city-poems and myth-poems; characters and allusions (Orpheus and Eurydice, Dante) recur, along with images (two different poems include the image of “a tree half aflame” inside the speaker). Phillips’s language is one of gorgeous rhythms, whether the syntax is straightforward or more complicated: “Tonight I touched the tattooed skin of the building I was born in,” the speaker of “Tonight,” the opening poem, says. In “Tabula Rasa,” a poem that’s all questions, addressed to the Poem itself, the speaker asks: “Are you what’s gold in the mind’s gray-green/Weather?” I love stanzas like this, from “Hell Gate, East River, New York” (and love this opening image, too, Manhattan as body):

Over the shorter shoulder of Manhattan,
Under gilded malts and molten-gold clouds, birds,
Lowering, seen as they were, lit by first light

Some poems are, explicitly or allusively, about 9/11; my favorite of these is “Embrace the Night and Get Thee Gone,” wih is forward-then-backward structure and beautiful phrases. Phillips is great with similes, like this, from “Music for When the Music Is Over”: “We live like the one sequin/In a sequined dress that thinks it’s the dress/Although it merely blurs from other lights/Ablaze and bending.” Or this, from “Aubade, Vol. 2: The Underground Sessions”:

As when a drinking collared deer
Hears a noise and
Although safe by being Caesar’s
Feels a strange freedom there in that second,
Some sense in the gut, a thunder of ribs,
A surge in the blood, some cinched memory
Of not being Caesar’s,

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