Wild Is the Wind

About what’s past, Hold on when you can, I used to say,
And when you can’t, let go, as if memory were one of those
mechanical bulls, easily dismountable, should the ride
turn rough. I lived, in those days, at the forest’s edge — 
metaphorically, so it can sometimes seem now, though
the forest was real, as my life beside it was. I spent
much of my time listening to the sounds of random, un-
knowable things dropping or being dropped from, variously,
a middling height or a great one until, by winter, it was
just the snow falling, each time like a new, unnecessary
taxonomy or syntax for how to parse what’s plain, snow
from which the occasional lost hunter would emerge
every few or so seasons, and — just once — a runaway child
whom I gave some money to and told no one about,

having promised ... You must keep what you’ve promised
very close to your heart, that way you’ll never forget
is what I’ve always been told. I’ve been told quite
a lot of things. They hover — some more unbidden than
others — in that part of the mind where mistakes and torn
wishes echo as in a room that’s been newly cathedraled,
so that the echo surprises, though lately it’s less the echo
itself that can still most surprise me about memory — 
it’s more the time it takes, going away: a mouth opening
to say I love sex with you too it doesn’t mean I wanna stop
my life for it, for example; or just a voice, mouthless,
asking Since when does the indifference of the body’s
stance when we’re alone, unwatched, in late light, amount

to cruelty? For the metaphysical poets, the problem
with weeping for what’s been lost is that tears
wash out memory and, by extension, what we’d hoped
to remember. If I refuse, increasingly, to explain, isn’t
explanation, at the end of the day, what the sturdier
truths most resist? It’s been my experience that
tears are useless against all the rest of it that, if I
could, I’d forget. That I keep wanting to stay should
count at least for something. I’m not done with you yet.

More Poems by Carl Phillips