"basilisk woman" by Xandria Phillips

I used to stay at home afraid of what my body

did beneath its surfaces, of my neighbors penetrating 

me with pitchforks, of the flowers that bloomed 

in my underarms wilting, of people noticing the rotting 

smell from my blood that I used to celebrate with every 

cracked yellow moon. I traded my soft skin 

for smooth skin. I traded warm eyes for pupils 

like bullets in his mouth, and his throat, and his stomach 

burst into cement. June found me walking 

down the street and I had never seen so many eyes. 

I was crushed under the weight of them. an eye weighs 

only an ounce but the multitude was enough to pull 

my stomach like teasing a plug from the bathtub, 

enough to bring me down. I was low to this place 

where I would make any friend I could who would close 

his eyes for moments, but when his eyes closed, his hands 

moved and there is a terrible weight in that too. my legs 

opened and at least a million butterflies burst 

from inside me. I had been with insect not nudge 

of child, and they swarmed his hands, his eyes, the rest 

of him away. I haven't seen them since. I haven't seen 

myself since. my blood runs cold. I leave my house as 

often as I like. I topple the figures of men after I blink 

them to stone. the sidewalks are covered in rubble 

and I don't even bother with clothes or sobriety 

these days, dragging my body down these summer 

streets looking for my children in the sky.



XANDRIA PHILLIPS grew up in rural Ohio and received her B.A. from Oberlin College in 2014. There she studied Creative Writing and Africana Studies. Her poetry explores Blackness in international and American contexts, queerness, displacement, and Atlantic myth. Much of her writing is about processing both personal and historical tragedies that people of the African Diaspora experience. She is currently a student of poetry and a teacher of composition in Virginia Tech's MFA program. 

Read more of Xandria Phillips' poetry in Issue 2, Vol. 1, Spring 2015.

Posted on June 1, 2015 .