Thinking of You – by Phillip Sterling


Imagine it’s your birthday and the muted gray light
of a rainy evening in November arrives early, just
after noon, say, like a worrisome telegram

at the height of a party in a 1940s foreign film
that you and your lover at the time had seen together
some years before. A matinee. It ended badly:

you against the Coming Attractions, sobbing;
your lover diminishing into fog with an indifference
that no filmmaker has yet been able to reproduce,

not even in animation. Your world is inconsolable,
she said. She wanted no part of it.
To love

the inconsolable, it seems, one must learn to love
the gray muted rain of a day in November, your
birthday notwithstanding, when the neighbor’s

broodless white duck—the last to survive—takes
to the cold refuge of the pond, well beyond
the fog-bleary driveway your property shares

and the heedless wheels of a delivery van
rushing in to drop off a gift you didn’t expect,
from someone you’d lost touch with years before.


Phillip Sterling’s books of poetry include Local Congregation: Poems Uncollected 1985-2015 (Main Street Rag, October 2023), Short on Days, And Then Snow, Mutual Shores, and four chapbook-length series of poems. A collection of essays and memoir, Lessons in Geography: The Education of a Michigan Poet, is forthcoming in fall 2024.