As when a long forgetfulness lifts suddenly, and what we'd forgotten—as we look at it squarely, then again refuse to look—is our own inconsequence, yes, it was mostly like that, sex as both an act of defacement and— as if the two were the same thing—votive offering, insofar as the leaves also were a kind of offering, or could at least be said to be, as they kept falling the way leaves do: volitionless, from different heights, and in the one direction.
From Speak Low by Carl Phillips. Copyright © 2009 by Carl Phillips. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved.
The orchard was on fire, but that didn’t stop him from slowly walking
straight into it, shirtless, you can see where the flames have
foliaged—here, especially—his chest. Splashed by the moon,
it almost looks like the latest proof that, while decoration is hardly
ever necessary, it’s rarely meaningless: the tuxedo’s corsage,
fog when lit scatteredly, swift, from behind—swing of a torch, the lone
match, struck, then wind-shut…How far is instinct from a thing
like belief? Not far, apparently. At what point is believing so close
to knowing, that any difference between the two isn’t worth the fuss,
finally? A tamer of wolves tames no foxes, he used to say, as if avoiding
the question. But never meaning to. You broke it. Now wear it broken.
Copyright © 2017 by Carl Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.