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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, July 19, 2016.
About this Poem 

“Something to do, maybe, with wrestling with the need to accept mystery as necessary between two people? Or if not necessary, a fact, all the same? Right now the poem seems a map of that wrestling.”
—Carl Phillips

The Way One Animal Trusts Another

              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 that
grow there, tree of compassion and—much taller—
tree of pity, its bark more bronze, the snow
              settled as if an openness of any kind meant, as well,
a woundedness that, by filling it, the snow
might heal…You know what I think? I think if we’re
lost, you should know exactly where, by now; I’ve
watched you stare long and hard enough at the map
already…I’m beginning to think I may never
not be undecided, about all sorts of things: whether
snow really does resemble the broken laughter
              of the long-abandoned when what left comes back
big-time; whether gratitude’s just a haunted
space like any other.  This place sounds daily
more like a theater of war, each time I listen to it—
loss, surprise, victory, being only three of the countless
fates, if you want to call them that, that we don’t
so much live with, it seems, as live for now among.  If as
close as we’re ever likely to get, you and I, is this—this close—

Copyright © 2016 by Carl Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 19, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Carl Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 19, 2016, 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
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
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