Carl Phillips

I traveled all night. It felt like

traveling inside someone else’s

unspoken prayer, back when

prayer hadn’t devolved, yet,

to mere ritual (though ritual

too, of course, has its tricks

and powers). I slept, some; I

woke—once, to what looked

at first like the sea flickering

“deep from within a dark

green shadow,” as they say, in

novels, but we were nowhere,

by then, near water. . . . “Sleep

tight, tiger,” a voice said to me,

as if to a child, while another

voice, speaking over that one,

said, “Just because some people

think gentleness means suffering,

usually, doesn’t mean it’s true. . . .”

Mirror, window, mirror. My

given name is not my secret

name, that I’ve only once said

aloud, to no one: all around me,

a fog settled like a cloud of

bees on a thicket of flowers—

blue to black, black to purple—

then each bee leaving the flower’s

body like what is called the soul.

Carl Phillips is the author of sixteen books of poetry, most recently Then the War: And Selected Poems 2007–2020, which won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize. A new book of poems, Scattered Snows, to the North, will be out in the early fall of 2024. He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.
Originally published:
April 1, 2024


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