American Life in Poetry: Column 691


I've arrived at an age at which I avoid looking into my old address books, although I've kept them all. Too many of those addresses are those of people no longer among us. Louis Phillips, a New Yorker, catches that feeling of loss in this poem from The Domain of Silence; The Domain of Absence: New & Selected Poems, from Pleasure Boat Studio.

The Address Book

How could I predict
That my life wd become whatever,
So many people
Passing thru—address books
Filled with names & numbers
I no longer recognize,
Pages torn loose,
Addresses crossed out,
Lives badly smudged,
Decades of earnest grief,
Missed opportunities,
Phones disconnected.
What am I now?
Just another old man
Among old men.
Turn the calendar upside down
& let the days fall out.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2015 by Louis Phillips, "The Address Book" from The Domain of Silence; The Domain of Absence: New & Selected Poems, (Pleasure Boat Studio, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Louis Phillips and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.