Custom

By Carl Phillips b. 1959 Carl Phillips
There is a difference it used to make,
seeing three swans in this versus four in that
quadrant of sky. I am not imagining. It was very large, as its
effects were. Declarations of war, the timing fixed upon for a sea-
             departure; or,
about love, a sudden decision not to, to pretend instead to a kind
of choice. It was dramatic, as it should be. Without drama,
what is ritual? I look for omens everywhere, because they are everywhere
to be found. They come to me like strays, like the damaged,
something that could know better, and should, therefore—but does not:
a form of faith, you've said. I call it sacrifice—an instinct for it, or a habit
             at first, that
becomes required, the way art can become, eventually, all we have
of what was true. You shouldn't look at me like that. Like one of those
             saints
on whom the birds once settled freely.

Carl Phillips, "Custom" from The Rest of Love. Copyright © 2004 by Carl Phillips. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved.

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Source: The Rest of Love (2004)

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Poet Carl Phillips b. 1959

Subjects Living, Growing Old, Religion, Faith & Doubt, The Spiritual

Poetic Terms Free Verse