There's an art to everything. How the rain means April and an ongoingness like that of song until at last it ends. A centuries-old set of silver handbells that once an altar boy swung, processing...You're the same wilderness you've always been, slashing through briars, the bracken of your invasive self. So he said, in a dream. But the rest of it—all the rest— was waking: more often than not, to the next extravagance. Two blackamoor statues, each mirroring the other, each hoisting forever upward his burden of hand-painted, carved-by-hand peacock feathers. Don't you know it, don't you know I love you, he said. He was shaking. He said: I love you. There's an art to everything. What I've done with this life, what I'd meant not to do, or would have meant, maybe, had I understood, though I have no regrets. Not the broken but still-flowering dogwood. Not the honey locust, either. Not even the ghost walnut with its non-branches whose every shadow is memory, memory...As he said to me once, That's all garbage down the river, now. Turning, but as the utterly lost— because addicted—do: resigned all over again. It only looked, it— It must only look like leaving. There's an art to everything. Even turning away. How eventually even hunger can become a space to live in. How they made out of shamelessness something beautiful, for as long as they could.
Copyright © 2011 by Carl Phillips. Reprinted from Double Shadow with the permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Carl Phillips is the author of several books including Pale Colors in a Tall Field (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020) .He is Professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis.
Date Published: 2011-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/civilization