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By Carl Phillips

by trees at its far ending,
as is the way in moral tales:

whether trees as trees actually,   
for their shadow and what   
inside of it

hides, threatens, calls to;
or as ever-wavering conscience,   
cloaked now, and called Chorus;

or, between these, whatever
falls upon the rippling and measurable,   
but none to measure it, thin

fabric of this stands for.
A kind of meadow, and then   
trees—many, assembled, a wood

therefore. Through the wood   
the worn
path, emblematic of Much

Trespass: Halt. Who goes there?
A kind of meadow, where it ends   
begin trees, from whose twinning

of late light and the already underway   
darkness you were expecting perhaps   
the stag to step forward, to make

of its twelve-pointed antlers
the branching foreground to a backdrop   
all branches;

or you wanted the usual
bird to break cover at that angle   
at which wings catch entirely

what light’s left,
so that for once the bird isn’t miracle   
at all, but the simplicity of patience

and a good hand assembling: first   
the thin bones, now in careful   
rows the feathers, like fretwork,

now the brush, for the laying-on   
of sheen…. As is always the way,
you tell yourself, in

poems—Yes, always,   
until you have gone there,   
and gone there, “into the

field,” vowing Only until   
there’s nothing more
I want—thinking it, wrongly,

a thing attainable, any real end
to wanting, and that it is close, and that   
it is likely, how will you not

this time catch hold of it: flashing,   
flesh at once

lit and lightless, a way
out, the one dappled way, back—

Carl Phillips, “A Kind of Meadow” from Pastoral. Copyright © 2000 by Carl Phillips. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota,

Source: Pastoral (Graywolf Press, 2000)

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Poet Bio

Carl Phillips
Carl Phillips was born in Everett, Washington. He attended Harvard, where he received a B.A., the University of Massachusetts, where he earned an M.A.T., and Boston University, where he earned an M.A. Before teaching English at the university level, Phillips taught Latin at several high schools. He is a member of the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis and was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006. See More By This Poet

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