Philip Carlsen


I Watched You

watched you
You did not see
me looking. Your face
was blank. You stared with red,

tired eyes
at the face
in the glass. You
were still. I could see
night steal over your day.

dawns red
on a sea
of despair. I
so want to help you
but can not bear your face.

by day you
drift down that red
tunnel. Farther. I
just can’t know what you see.

my face,
the cloud I
carry. One day,
perhaps, gone. I read
that last letter from you,

know. See
these tired, red
eyes? Can I face
this another day?
What to do, you and I?

I see
you every day,
your blank face, eyes still red.


Just a Sestina

give me
one small hint,
like the way you
catch a flash of light
in the depths of your eye.

can just
catch your light
whisper. Let me
lean closer to you.
Say it once again. “Hint,

your eye
winks, then you
seem to adjust
your gaze, look at me
through dappled gauzy light,

with hints
of dreamy
afternoons. I
take a breath. It’s just
the light and me and you.

smile. Light
fades to just
the faintest hint
of glowing. Your eye
holds secret alchemy.

and you:
it’s what I
know . . . past twilight . . .
fleeting glimpse . . . brief hint
of something more than just

you, me,
late light, the eye
obscured, the strangest hint . . .


sOZtina for the crash

of Oz?
Yellow brick
road? Hmmph! Tin Man,
Scarecrow, Cowardly
Lion, Dorothy—yeah, To-

nowhere near Oz.
“Where we be?” demands
Dorothy. “My heart could break.

in two
like no man
ever knew!” Land
lost and gone. All Oz
cries out pathetically.

on breaks
down: “Oh, Oz!”
as if a toe-
claw broke off and land-
ed in his eye. Women,

the le-
gions of land-
ed gentry brick
up the arches to
their gardens. Claim it was

of a to-
temic, fully
realized gold-brick
Eden. Back to the land?

Man was
just totally
broke: wizard with no land.

Copyright © 2013 Philip Carlsen

Philip Carlsen is Professor of Music at the University of Maine at Farmington, where he conducted the orchestra for twenty years, and has taught music theory, composition, film music, non-Western music, jazz history, and other subjects since 1982. He founded and edited the campus’s faculty literary journal, Beyond Memos. As a composer, he has had his music performed frequently in Maine, as well as at New York’s Town Hall and the Museum of Modern Art Sculpture Garden, at the Kennedy Center, and national conferences of the College Music Society and the Society of Composers. Among his honors are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maine Arts Commission, a residency at the MacDowell Colony, and a commission from the National Symphony Orchestra Residency Program. Carlsen has been fascinated by sestinas ever since first encountering the form in the work of John Ashbery.