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
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
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
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, www.graywolfpress.org.
Source: Pastoral (Graywolf Press, 2000)
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