Phil Carlsen


Here is a poem by Phil Carlsen, also a political poem rendered slant, as Emily Dickinson advises. The poem hints at the way privilege blinds us to others and to our own vulnerabilities, perhaps to our fear of that vulnerability. Phil Carlsen is a musician and composer, which may have something to do with his ability to work with such eloquence in traditional forms like the sonnet.

Betsy Sholl, MAJ Poetry Editor



Sic Transit Gloria Mundi


Sue smugly blogs her bulging bucket list.

Gets lots of hits for her selfie-worthy trips

and tasks, vast catalog of the not-to-be-missed.

They do not smile so much as smirk, famed lips

of Sue, in bikinied shots on South Seas beaches,

on safari in the Sahel astride a camel,

at a Left Bank bistro eating brandied peaches,

or crafting a cloisonné brooch in cobalt enamel,

while here at home, as I take my daily walk

around the neighborhood, I pass a man

and his dog rock-still, looking straight up

into the trees, and then, with a sudden crack,

a branch and squirrel fall, like a stern omen,

smack on the dog’s snout—too soon, time’s up.



Philip Carlsen was a professor of music at the University of Maine at Farmington for 33 years. His compositions have been performed widely, and he directs Portland’s Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival and plays cello with St. Mary Schola and the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra. His poems have appeared in several journals.