This is the Light

Carl Phillips

            This is the deep light you’ve waited for, unfiltered except
now and then by the memory of your first time seeing it,
soon the night-dark after that, filling with sounds that were
strange only from your own mixed perspective as the latest
stranger to have passed through by accident, if there’s such
            a thing. Now you live here, where it’s likeliest you’ll die, too,
you’re finally old enough, not just to say, but – without
sorrow or fear, most of the time – understand the truth of it,
the mind done with signaling, letting its watch-fires, one by one,
go out: the renegade glamour of late fall, owl-ish, fox-ish, how
            brightness is and isn’t a color exactly, the one tree from a
city years ago, its weeping branches of pink-white poisonous
berries, like a vow against winter, against giving in, or as if
            the tree, to cover its nakedness, had chosen a stole of what –
when looked at closely – seem the shrunken heads of goblins
in miniature – from afar, just berries, more proof that victory
wears best when worn quietly, or it never happened, or to
someone else, I’m only trying to help you, let me help you,
            he said, something like that, unbuckling; they sailed for hours;
the water that day was as close to perfect as perfect gets here.

Carl Phillips‘s most recent book of poems is Pale Colors in a Tall Field (FSG, 2020). He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.

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