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poetry Countrywide

California poet Patrick Phillips traces one legacy of the countrywide home loan crisis that followed the corporate Countrywide meltdown.

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By Patrick Phillips


He threw the pale pink envelopes into the trash

and smashed the Mickey Mouse phone hanging up.


And when his wife asked you okay? he said okay,

then took a twistoff to the back, screaming


FUCK so loud he spooked the treefrogs and cicadas.

He’d got canned for nothing, missed three payments,


then let that cokehead Steve talk him into a “loan,”

until this woman in a room in Oklahoma


said Go on, holler all you want, babe,

they come Sunday-next at noon.


So he got high out in the hammock and watched

a blinking light streak past the Milky Way,


headed, he said, to fucking Cancun or Jamaica.

And for a week nobody noticed he was too calm,


springing for movies and take-out,

giving away whole packs of Marlboros.


His wife said she wished the aliens

had abducted him a little sooner.


And when finally, they went to church

and drove back to the wrong house, on the wrong road,


even the kids seemed to understand

that they were never going home.


He listened to the youngest sob

through the trailer’s patched and painted walls.


And for a decade he couldn’t bring himself

to take the shortcut through that subdivision.


Until one Friday, on a whim, he sat in the dark truck

blowing smoke-rings and staring through his picture window


as somebody else’s wife dealt a stack of plates

out around the kitchen table.



In the shadows he could just make out a bike

with long pink tassels, keeled over on the lawn,


and a popup spinklerhead that glared at him,

then hissed, and carried on.

Patrick Phillips is the author of three collections of poetry, including Elegy for a Broken Machine, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, as well as the nonfiction book Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America. He teaches writing and literature at Stanford.