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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 6, 2017.
About this Poem 

“I think this poem is circling the idea of refusing to change the self, even when it’s understood as deeply flawed, given that we have to believe in something…”
—Carl Phillips

Dirt Being Dirt

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.

Copyright © 2017 by Carl Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Carl Phillips

Carl Phillips

Born on July 23, 1959, Carl Phillips's collection The Rest of Love won the Theodore Roethke Memorial Foundation Poetry Prize and the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry.

by this poet

poem
Coral-bells purpled the fallen sycamore leaves, dead, the dead 
versus those who attempted death, versus those who effectively 
fashioned out of such attempts a style akin to electric guitar 
shimmer swelling and unswelling like starlings when they first 

lift off, or like stars when, from their fixed sway,
poem
So that each
is its own, now—each has fallen, blond stillness.
Closer, above them,
the damselflies pass as they would over water, 
if the fruit were water,
or as bees would, if they weren't
somewhere else, had the fruit found
already a point more steep
in rot, as soon it must, if
none shall lift it from the
poem
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,