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Mastery


Dry waterfall

                           that eventually, almost,
the skull resembled—

And then the skull was just

a skull.
              The heart—
at last nothing

but a muscle moving,

not at all the talisman you’d imagined:
how if only you could touch it—how
everything, everything might

yet be different
if you did . . .
                        Is this
perfection,

                     or the cost of it?

If the mind seems

increasingly a landscape
where brush and desert, dry
prairie, and chaparral
coincide,

                  is this that landscape,
or the abandoned
set, finally, for one of those movies

that take place there: sudden

sandstorm, each man
immediately dismounting, each blinding,
with whatever cloth available,

his horse’s eyes . . .

                                    That much, still,
is true, isn’t it?—the horse
comes first? then you do?   


—Carl Phillips

Carl Phillips’s most recent books of poetry are The Tether and Rock Harbor. He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.

Originally published in the October/November 2003 issue of Boston Review



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