29 April 2009

Carl Phillips

[from Carl Phillips's Speak Low, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009]


Having opened to their fullest, they opened further --
Now the peonies, near to breaking, splay groundward,
some even touch the ground, and though I do understand,
yes, that they're not the not-so-lovely-after-all example
of how excess, even in its smallest forms, seems to have
its cost, I think it anyway,

                                        I even think they look, more
than a little bit, like rough sex once it's gone where, of
course it had to -- do you know what I mean, his smell
on you after, like those parts of the gutted deer that
the men bring home with them, fresh from the hunt,
as if you were like that now, the parts, not the smell, I
mean as if you were his, all you'd ever wanted to be,
and how you almost believe that?

                                                   Do you see that too?

According to Augustine, it's a distortion of the will
that leads to passion, a slavish obedience to passion that
leads to habit, until habit in turn becomes hunger, and need.
-- What is it about logic, when delivered unflinchingly,
that makes a thought like that sound true, whether true
or not? Significant of nothing but a wind that, rising
suddenly, falls as suddenly back, the trees swing
briefly in the same direction, as if I couldn't quite
admit, yet, to a kind of grace

                                             in synchronicity, and had
asked for proof, and the trees were one part of it, another
the light of this late-afternoon hour when it works both
against and in the body's favor, like camouflage -- which
in the end is only distortion by a prettier name. I know
all about that. You can call it heartlessness, an indifference
to ruin, a willed inability to be surprised by it -- you'd be
mistaken. Don't go. Let me show you what it looks like
when surrender, and an instinct not to, run side by side.

Speak Low: Poems

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