Poem for the weekend: Carl Phillips’ Wild Is the Wind

Wild Is the Wind

By Carl Phillips


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.


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