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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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