Phillips, Carl

Somewhere between

To Be Lit

and To Be


he’d removed his shirt,

his shoes,

he had opened his pants;

he wore nothing under.

I did what I do–

pretended to be a fallen gate,

its hinges gone, that

soon the snow,

continuing, must hide

most of.

Is this how it will finish?

Is fervor belief’s

only measure? Is there

no saving

what betrays itself?

After which,

I held him

until his body was not

his body,

was a single birch

I’d seen years ago– down, and silvering

in a field,


Sleep, I said. But he

couldn’t sleep;

he said Tell me a story.

There was once

a mockingbird, I told him, It

knew no better:

it would sing.

It sang all night…

CARL PHILLIPS is the author of five books of poems, most recently The Tether (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001). He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.

Copyright New England Review Winter 2002

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