Smell of Hay, The

Smell of Hay, The

Phillips, Carl

If I speak of suffering,

I don’t mean, this time, how it refines us,

I mean less its music than what is music-like

about it-a tendency to diminish to almost nothing, then

it swells back. The way memory can resemble steeple-bells,

the play of them, the bell-ropes having left

our hands. Or like snow resettling

inside a snow-globe picked up, shaken,

set down. Then we shake it again. Lost excellence

is a different thing. Men who make

no exceptions. Men who, because they expect everywhere

hard surprises, have themselves grown hard-phaseable,

fazed by nothing. Touch, as a form of collision;

a belief in divinity as a form of nostalgia. Husk of a libretto

for the world as-I can say it now-I wanted it: a room

that swayed with rough courtship; my body not mine,

any more to ransom, than to refuse. On the window’s

glass where the larger moths had beaten

against it, a fine powder, a proof by morning I had only

to blow across. And it flew. It scattered.

CARL PHILLIPS, who teaches at Washington University in St. Louis, is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Rock Harbor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002). His seventh book, The Rest of Love, will be published in 2004, along with Coin of the Realm, a collection of critical essays.

Copyright New England Review Spring 2003

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