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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, December 4, 2017.
About this Poem 

“I suppose I’m ultimately trying to say something about the pointlessness of expending energy on what can’t be changed, because it’s too late. That wasn’t what I planned on writing about, but I happened to come upon some ginkgo leaves beautifully suspended in ice and began thinking of frozen heroes—who can say why that happens?”
—Carl Phillips

For It Felt Like Power

          They’d only done what all along they’d come
intending to do. So they lay untouched by regret,
after. The combined light and shadow of passing
cars stutter-shifted across the walls the way,
in summer,
                the night moths used to, softly
sandbagging the river of dream against dream’s
return…Listen, it’s not like I don’t get it about
suffering being relative—I get it. Not so much
the traces of ice on the surface of four days’
worth of rainwater in a stone urn, for example,
but how, past the ice,
                                  through the water beneath it,
you can see the leaves—sycamore—where they fell
unnoticed. Now they look suspended, like heroes
inside the myth heroes seem bent on making
from the myth of themselves; or like sunlight, in fog.

Copyright © 2017 by Carl Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 4, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Carl Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 4, 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
Perhaps,
in the exaggerated grace
of his weight
settling,

the wings
raised, held in
strike-or-embrace
position,

I recognized
something more
than swan, I can't say.

There was just
this barely defined
shoulder, whose feathers
came away in my hands,

and the bit of world
left beyond it, coming down

to the heat-
2
poem

              Somewhere between what it feels like, to be at
one with the sea, and to understand the sea as
mere context for the boat whose engine refuses
finally to turn over: yeah, I know the place—
stumbled into it myself, once; twice, almost.  All
around and in between the two trees

2
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,