"Silverchest" is like the decaying strains of music that one hears coming from a a neighbor's window on a hot day, an undertone you detect under the gasoline cough of leaf blowers and the louder commotion of what passes on the street. But was it music at all? Melodic tones , connected in fractions of a larger, fuller musical drama, somewhat heard and then wiped from memory; all that remains is the sensation trying to remember what the song might have been. It is not an experience that creates a string of associations a writer or a reader can turn into material that will eventually suggest something profound about the folly of our ideas of what our experience mean.
Phillips' poem is slight the extent that what we witness are not items that trigger something in our own experience, a poem that draws out the memories and compels us to deal with them, contextualize them, find the ironic counterpart. our assumption slammed against the actual fact. The poem's phrases merely lie there, obvious in their slant and sleights. This is not a revelation, not a simple melody revealing a larger emotional complex that defies the dimensions of a free verse poem; I take it as a collection of signifiers or props left lying around. One asks if this a poem at all, like that suggestion of music previously mentioned. The experience here is more of searching for a poem, the hard, flinty part of metaphor that might ignite the associative string of fire crackers. There are no explosions, however, only a window display. All this is more a practice run than a journey, a rehearsal rather than performance.