The Truth

By Carl Phillips b. 1959 Carl Phillips
And now,
the horse is entering   
the sea, and the sea

                               holds it.   

Where are we?

Behind us,   
the beach,
                yes, its

          yes, of
                      grass, dune, sky—Desire

goes by, and though
it’s wind of course making   
the grass bend,

                        unbend, we say   
it’s desire again, passing
us by, souveniring us with   
gospel the grass, turned
choir, leans into,

Lord, soon.

it still matters, to say something. Like:   
the heart isn’t

                        really breakable,
not in the way you mean, any more   
than a life shatters,

                               —which is what   
dropped shells can do, or a bond sworn to,   
remember, once

                      couldn’t, a wooden boat between   
unmanageable wave and rock or,   
as hard, the shore.

The wooden boat is
not the heart,
                      the wave the flesh,
                                                    the rock the soul—

and if we thought so, we have merely been   
that long

about the shore: it doesn’t   
mean all trespass
is forgiven, if nightly   
the sand is cleared of   
any sign
             we were here.

It doesn’t equal that whether   
we were here or not
             Waves, because   
so little of the world, even   
when we say that it has   
shifted, has:

same voices,   
ghosts, same   
hungers come,
                     stop coming—

How far the land can be found to   
be, and
of a sudden,
                   sometimes. Now—
so far from rest,
should rest be needed—

Will it drown?   

The horse, I mean.

And I—who do not ride, and   
do not swim

And would that I had never climbed   
its back

And love you too

Carl Phillips, “The Truth,” from Pastoral. Copyright © 2000 by Carl Phillips. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota,

Source: Pastoral (Graywolf Press, 2000)

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Poet Carl Phillips b. 1959

Subjects Nature, Religion, Relationships, Pets, Love, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, God & the Divine

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 Carl  Phillips


Referred to as “one of America’s most original, influential, and productive of lyric poets,” Carl Phillips is the author of a dozen books of poetry and two works of criticism. He was born in Everett, Washington in 1959, and his family moved frequently around the United States. He earned a BA from Harvard, an MAT from the University of Massachusetts, and an MA in creative writing from Boston University. Before teaching English at . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Religion, Relationships, Pets, Love, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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