Song of the Closing Doors

“I will consider a slice of pizza,” opens Phillips’s poem “Jubilate Civitas.” “For rare among pleasures in Gotham, it is both / exquisite and blessedly cheap.” Thus, as throughout this collection, he celebrates a simple pleasure that “in a time of deceit . . . is honest and upright, steadfast and good”; even the busted buttons we press when waiting to cross the street make for elegy in a collection that brings us this poet at his burnished best. Phillips finds his love of a complex, vibrant city extends to his dearest people—he writes for his friend Paul, dying of cancer; for his wife’s stormy eyes when they fight; for the baby boy he once woke at night to feed and change. All these and more pass through Phillips’s elegant yet colloquial lines, in a book that shines with love and honesty on every page. As he writes, “If you’re reading this / we were once friends.”