Elegy with Gasoline


The only one the snipers spared, as their helicopter hovered above the temple wall, was a lanky young initiate who sloshed the amber liquid from a jerry can onto his head Then bowed formally, deliberately, to all those watching inside the circle of their scopes, as he opened his eyes and stood upright and touched the stick of smoking incense to his robe.

PATRICK PHILLIPS is the author of three poetry collections, Elegy for a Broken Machine (Knopf, 2015); Boy (Georgia, 2008); and Chattahoochee (Arkansas, 2004), which won the 2005 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He has also translated When We Leave Each Other: Selected Poems of Henrik Nordbrandt (Open Letter, 2013). His honors include both Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, a Fulbright at the University of Copenhagen, a Pushcart Prize, the Lyric Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America, and a Discovery / The Nation Prize from the 92nd Street Y. His poems appear in magazines such as Poetry, Ploughshares, The American Poetry Review, and The Nation, and have been featured on Garrison Keillor’s radio show “The Writer’s Almanac.” He grew up in the foothills of North Georgia, and now lives in Brooklyn and is Associate Professor of English at Drew University. “Elegy with Gasoline” appears in Elegy for a Broken Machine (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015).