Phillip Crymble

How Sad Indeed, No Zero & The Bird Cage

Phillip Crymble

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How Sad Indeed

——for Philip Larkin

your home in Newland Park, its garden

thick with weeds, snapped up — the university

outbid.  It stayed as it was left — no music


in the piano stool, no vase, but shoes,

a horsehair shaving brush untouched for years.

It’s where your poems dried up — all except


that hedgehog you found jammed against the mower

blades.  An orphan in your place, new absence,

(yes, it’s much the same), your father’s model


Hitler, corks inscribed with dates.  I wonder,

Philip, what you had to celebrate.


No Zero

Old second feature sci-fi films seem primitive to us

          these days — Plan 9 from Outer Space is shameless. 


More a rough cut than a finished print, the picture’s

          few apologists insist that it’s a masterpiece of camp.


Suspending disbelief’s a Hollywood priority.  Back

          then the saucers flew on strings, blue-screen trick


photography left much to be desired, cost constraints

          in set design and wardrobe made productions more


theatrical.  Fourth wall politics are black and white.

          A bargain-bin of compromise, low-budget matinees


gave rise to the expression of ideas.  Atomic age

          anxieties and fears kept families up at night.  Giant


radiated ants, invading aliens, a man who shrinks

          to insect size — subversive cinema is best disguised.


French New Wave got all the press.  Mid-century

          charlatans like Wood still fuck with people’s minds.


The Bird Cage

The new wing at the Baycrest Geriatric 

Home is bright and clean, its glassed-in ceiling

vaulted like the firmament.  Walking sticks

and wheelchairs move so slowly I think

more than once of photographs developing,

daguerreotypes and silver plate.  A cage

stands as the centrepiece, adds colour, brings

the invalids and children face to face

with birds of paradise.  “The pleasure I take 

feeding them”, says one old man.  He’d flown

from Austria in ‘thirty-eight and made

a break before the camps.  The children hold 

out sunflower seeds, he coaches, and I feel

a kind of wonder.  Is there nothing that can’t keep?



Phillip Crymble


Phillip Crymble received his MFA from the University of Michigan, and now lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where he divides his time between pursuing a PhD in Literature at UNB and serving as a Poetry Editor for The Fiddlehead. Invited to participate in the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2007, his poems have appeared in Oxford Poetry, Magma, Cake, BRAND, Abridged, The Stinging Fly, Poetry Ireland Review, The Salt Anthology of New Writing 2013, Iota, The North, The Forward Book of Poetry 2017, and elsewhere. Not Even Laughter, published by Salmon Poetry in 2015, was a finalist for both the New Brunswick Book Award and the JM Abraham Prize for the best book of poetry in Atlantic Canada.