Hymn

By Carl Phillips b. 1959 Carl Phillips
Less the shadow
than you a stag, sudden, through it.   
Less the stag breaking cover than

the antlers, with which   
crowned.
Less the antlers as trees leafless,

to either side of the stag’s head, than—
between them—the vision that must   
mean, surely, rescue.

Less the rescue.
More, always, the ache   
toward it.

When I think of death, the gleam of
the world darkening, dark, gathering me   
now in, it is lately

as one more of many other nights   
figured with the inevitably   
black car, again the stranger’s

strange room entered not for prayer   
but for striking
prayer’s attitude, the body

kneeling, bending, until it finds   
the muscled patterns that   
predictably, given strain and

release, flesh assumes.   
When I think of desire,
it is in the same way that I do

God: as parable, any steep
and blue water, things that are always   
there, they only wait

to be sounded.
And I a stone that, a little bit, perhaps   
should ask pardon.

My fears—when I have fears—
are of how long I shall be, falling,   
and in my at last resting how

indistinguishable, inasmuch as they   
are countless, sire,
all the unglittering other dropped stones.

Carl Phillips, “Hymn,” from Pastoral. Copyright © 2000 by Carl Phillips. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: Pastoral (Graywolf Press, 2000)

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Poet Carl Phillips b. 1959

Subjects Religion, Love, The Body, Nature, Relationships, Animals, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Carl  Phillips

Biography

Carl Phillips is the author of more than eight books of poetry, including most recently Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems 1986-2006, The Rest of Love, Rock Harbor, and The Tether, which won the Kingsley Tufts Award; he is the translator of Sophocles’ Philoctetes. Phillips teaches at Washington University in Saint Louis. He recently was awarded the 2006 Academy of American Poets Fellowship.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Love, The Body, Nature, Relationships, Animals, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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