15 May 2006

Carl Phillips

[from Carl Phillips's Riding Westward]


There’s a meadow I can’t stop coming back to, any
more than I can stop calling it a sacred grove—isn’t
that was it was, once? A lot of resonance, trees asway
with declarations whose traced-on-the-air patterns
the grasses also traced, more subtly, below. As for
strangers: yes, and often, and—with few exceptions—
each desperate either to win back some kingdom he’d
lost, or to be, if only briefly, for once free of one. I did
what I could for them. They did—what they did . . . It was
as if we were rescuable, and worth rescuing, both, and
the gods had noticed this—it was as if there were gods—
and the sky meanwhile crowning every part of it, blue,
a blue crown . . . There’s a meadow I still go back to. It’s
just a meadow—with, sometimes, a stranger, passing
through, the occasional tenderness, a hand to my chest,
resting there, making me almost want to touch something,
someone back. I can feel all the wrecked birds—lying
huddled, slow-hearted, like so many stunned psalms,
against each other—start to stir inside me, their bits of
song giving way again to the usual questions: Why not
stay awhile here forever?
and Isn’t this what you keep
coming for?
and Is it? I’m tired of their questions. I’m
tired, I say to them—as, with all the sluggishness at first
of doing a thing they’d forgotten how to do, or forgotten
to want to, or had only hoped to forget, they indifferently
open, spread wide their interrogative, gray wings—

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