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About this poet

Philip Schultz is the author of The Wherewithal (W. W. Norton, 2014) and received the Pulitzer Prize for Failure (Harcourt, 2007). He is the founder and director of The Writers Studio and lives in East Hampton, New York.

The Silence

Philip Schultz

for RJ

You always called late and drunk, 
your voice luxurious with pain,
I, tightly wrapped in dreaming, 
listening as if to a ghost.

Tonight a friend called to say your body 
was found in your apartment, where 
it had lain for days. You'd lost your job, 
stopped writing, saw nobody for weeks. 
Your heart, he said. Drink had destroyed you.

We met in a college town, first teaching jobs, 
poems flowing from a grief we enshrined 
with myth and alcohol. I envied the way 
women looked at you, a bear blunt with rage, 
tearing through an ever-darkening wood.

Once we traded poems like photos of women 
whose beauty tested God's faith. 'Read this one 
about how friendship among the young can't last, 
it will rip your heart out of your chest!'

Once you called to say J was leaving, 
the pain stuck in your throat like a razor blade. 
A woman was calling me back to bed 
so I said I'd call back. But I never did.

The deep forlorn smell of moss and pine 
behind your stone house, you strumming 
and singing Lorca, Vallejo, De Andrade, 
as if each syllable tasted of blood, 
as if you had all the time in the world. . .

You knew your angels loved you 
but you also knew they would leave 
someone they could not save.

Copyright © 2002 by Philip Schultz. Reprinted with the permission of Harcourt, Inc. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2002 by Philip Schultz. Reprinted with the permission of Harcourt, Inc. All rights reserved.

Philip Schultz

Philip Schultz is the author of The Wherewithal (W. W. Norton, 2014) and received the Pulitzer Prize for Failure (Harcourt, 2007). He is the founder and director of The Writers Studio and lives in East Hampton, New York.

by this poet

poem
Grandma climbs a chair to yell at God for killing
her only husband whose only crime was forgetting
where he put things. Finally, God misplaced him. Everyone
in this house is a razor, a police radio, a bulging vein.
It's too late for any of us, Grandma says to the ceiling. 
She believes we are chosen to be
poem

Suddenly
everything feels afterwards,
stoic and inevitable, 
my eyes ringed with the grease of rumor and complicity,
my hands eager to hold any agreeable infatuation
that might otherwise slip away.
Suddenly
it’s evening and the lights up and
down the street appear hopeful,