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Like Cuttings for a Wreath of Praise and Ransom

Abbreviation,
                           part that gives what is left
away. As if released,
                                     a stone—as from
a sling. The landscape opening as if no end to it,
a longing anywhere
                                 for some resistance, some
stop: the magnolia, its ring of bird-ravaged
seed-cones,
                       the birds themselves, a wind lifting
a collar of feathers at the neck of each—stiff
courtiers,
                     Elizabethan. Clarity, versus
blur.
           Fine distinctions.
                                           Not, it seems,
the cries of joy. Not punishment—think
in terms of, instead,
                                       persuasion. Silo, through which
the rains, passing,
                                   pass unimpeded. Hunger
versus the pursuit of it. That’s what they say.
With time, with wear,
                                          the leather softening. They say
the legs go here. The straps adjust.
                                                                Like so.   


—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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