Carl Phillips


From the waist down, at least,
nothing unfamiliar. Cypress trees. The catalpa,
its seedpods hanging like shadow-icicles. And the light
around them. And the bodies that
                                                    enter the light, and leave it,
your own among them, but as when the body seems
most to want, impossibly, to step free of itself, oblivion
of wish,
             of wishing.—About sanctuary, how over
time it makes the birds come closer: how that’s different
from trust—isn’t it? What the fuck do you think you’re
looking at,
he says softly. What a thing
                                                           to say—
The mind protecting itself by shutting down an intimacy
that, most likely, won’t be returned. Why expect it? As if
that were the mind’s chief purpose, to resist a fall, though
falling’s what the body
                                   does best. Is quick to rise for. Moving
toward you with all the ceremony of many wings at
once outspread, a holiday, descending. The dark adjusts
itself, settles its wings inside you. The shadows that
strut the dark
                     open and fold like hope, a paper fan, violence
in its pitch and fall, like waves—above them, the usual
seabirds, their presumable
                                        indifference to chance, its
blond convergences . . . As when telling cruelty apart
from chivalry can come to seem irrelevant, or not anymore
the main point. He touches himself here,
                                                             and here. Directive.
Turns his face away. It can look like ransom. Now it looks
like privilege, now recklessness, now triumph, gravel-and-blood,
humiliation, lovely, now strict refrain, he taketh my hand
in his.