Rock Harbor

By Carl Phillips b. 1959 Carl Phillips
The wind was high—it gave to your
hair a lift in equal parts gradual,
steep, disarming—

                                     I love a storm,
and said so; by I have always
loved better the wreckage after,

I did not mean instead of, but
a preference.
                         To the air, an edge

anyone would call arctic—isn't
that why we left it nameless? To
your face, a look I'd admired before

in the bodies of those who seem
not so much indifferent as made
ignorant, or stunned as if by

sudden luck, or else repentant and
in payment, somehow, for what
all price falls like an irrelevance,

a stole, an expensive sail in a
calm away from. Sex
as a space available where neither

loss nor regret figures—imagine
that.
          Or not having, finally, to take

anything away—in the form of
photographs of the mostly ice
that the harbor's water, the shore

past that, the street after had
become; or as words like those
that came to me: green, kind of,

lit almost, hut as if from within
in places, a spill but
an arrested one, less force than
 
the idea of it, block and edge like
the chance for pattern, but
spent now or only, from the very

start, false
                     —false and singing.
The wind was high; it exaggerated

what you were already, a man
returning toward shelter he can't
see yet, but believes just ahead

exists, the sort of man for whom to
doubt at all is treason. By
not unfaithful, I understood I

could mean both things: I'd do
nothing I'd promised not to—
Also, there is nothing I'll forget.

Carl Phillips, "Rock Harbor" from Rock Harbor. Copyright © 2002 by Carl Phillips. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved.

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Source: Rock Harbor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002)

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Poet Carl Phillips b. 1959

Subjects Living, Coming of Age

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 Living, Coming of Age

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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