Ghost Choir

What injures the hive injures the bee, says Marcus Aurelius. I say
not wanting to hurt another, this late, should maybe more than
count, still, as a form of love. Be wild. Bewilder. Not that they
hadn’t, of course, known unkindnesses, and been themselves
unkind. When the willow’s leaves, back again, unfold all along
their branches, the branches routinely in turn brushing then lifting

away from the pond’s face, it’s too late. Last night I doubted as I’ve
not doubted myself in years: knowing a thing seemed worthless
next to knowing the difference between many things, the fox from
the hounds, persuasion from the trust required to fall asleep beside
a stranger; who I am, and how I treated you, and how you feel. So
that it almost seemed they’d either forgotten or agreed without

saying so to pretend they had. Did you know there’s an actual plant
called honesty, for its seedpods, how you can see straight through?
Though they’d been told the entire grove would die eventually, they
refused to believe it. The face in sleep, like a wish wasted. To the wings
at first a slight unsteadiness; then barely any. What if forgetting’s not
like that—instead, stampeding, panicked, just a ghost choir: of legends,

and rumors, of the myths forged from memory—what’s true, and isn’t—
that we make of ourselves and, even worse, of others. Not the all-but-
muscular ache, the inner sweep of woundedness; no. Not tonight. Say
the part again about the bluer flower, black at the edges. I’ve always
loved that part. Skull of an ox, from which a smattering of stars
keeps rising. How they decided never to use surrender as a word again.

More Poems by Carl Phillips