When he speaks of deserved and undeserved as more
than terms — how they can matter, suddenly — I can tell
he believes it. Sometimes a thing can seem star-like
when it’s just a star, stripped of whatever small form of joy
likeness equals. Sometimes the thought that I’m doomed
to fail — that the body is — keeps me almost steady, if
steadiness is what a gift for a while brings — feathers, burst-
at-last pods of milkweed, October — before it all fades away.
Before the drugs and the loud music, before tears and
restraining orders and the eventual go fuck yourself get your
ass out of here don’t go, the apartments across the street
were a boys’ grammar school — before that, a convent,
the only remains of which, ornamenting the far parking lot,
is a marble pedestal with some Latin on it that translates as
Heart of Jesus, have mercy, as if that much, at least, still
remained relevant, or should. If it’s true that secrets resist
always the act of telling, how come secrets, more often than
not, seem the entire story? Caladium, Cleome — how delicate,
this holding of certain words in the mouth, the all but lost
trick of lifting for salvage the last windfalls as, across them,
the bees make their slow-muscled, stunned, moving scab ...

More Poems by Carl Phillips