Radiance versus Ordinary Light

By Carl Phillips b. 1959 Carl Phillips
Meanwhile the sea moves uneasily, like a man who
suspects what the room reels with as he rises into it
is violation—his own: he touches the bruises at each
shoulder and, on his chest,
                                                  the larger bruise, star-shaped,
a flawed star, or hand, though he remembers no hands,
has tried—can't remember . . .
                                                        That kind of rhythm to it,
even to the roughest surf there's a rhythm findable,
which is why we keep coming here, to find it, or that's
what we say. We dive in and, as usual,
                                                                      the swimming
feels like that swimming the mind does in the wake
of transgression, how the instinct to panic at first
slackens that much more quickly, if you don't
look back. Regret,
                                 like pity, changes nothing really, we
say to ourselves and, less often, to each other, each time
swimming a bit farther,
                                           leaving the shore the way
the water—in its own watered, of course, version
of semaphore–keeps leaving the subject out, flashing
Why should it matter now and Why,
                                                                  why shouldn 't it,
as the waves beat harder, hard against us, until that's
how we like it, I'll break your heart, break mine.


Carl Phillips, "Radiance Versus Ordinary Light" from Riding Westward. Copyright © 2006 by Carl Phillips. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved.

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Source: Riding Westward (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006)

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Poet Carl Phillips b. 1959

Subjects Love, Desire

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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SUBJECT Love, Desire

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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