Sing a Darkness

Carl Phillips

Slowly the fog did what fog does, eventually: it lifted, the wayveils tend to at some point in epic          verse so that the hero cansee the divinity at work constantly behindall things mortal, or that’s          the idea, anyway, I’m not saying I do or don’tbelieve that, I’m not even sure that belief can changeany of it, at least in terms of the facts of how,          moment by moment, any life unfurls, we cancall it fate or call it just what happened, whathappens, while we’re busy trying to describe          or explain what happens,how a mimosa tree caught growing close beside a housegets described as “hugging the house,”          for example, as if an impulse to find affection everywheremade us have to put it there,a spell against indifference,          as if that were the worst thing—is it?Isn’t it?          The fog lifted.It was early spring, still.The dogwood brandished those pollen-laden buds          that precede a flowering. History. What survives, or doesn’t.How the healthiest huddled, as much at leastas was possible, more closely together,          to give the sick more room. How they mostly all died, all the same.I was nowhere I’d ever been before.Nothing mattered.          I practiced standing as still as I could, for as long as I could.

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Carl Phillips is the author of 16 books of poetry, including Then the War: And Selected Poems 2007-2020 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and Carcanet/UK, 2022) and Wild Is the Wind (FSG, 2018), which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His new prose book, My Trade Is Mystery: Seven Meditations from a Life in Writing, is forthcoming from Yale University Press in September 2022. Phillips teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.

"The poet Carl Phillips combines beauty and insight in syntactically surprising lines that always reward careful study . . . an exquisite collection."
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"Carl Phillips is a poet of enchantment and persuasion. The subject of his poems, often, is eros, and the engine of his poems, often, is argument. He is among our most prolific and widely and frequently published poets, and yet, reading his poems, I sense, too, their rareness . . . I couldn’t mistake these poems for any other poet’s work. In a moment obsessed with snappy performances, Phillips’s poems are contemplative, rich, and troubled. They are rarely axiomatic or quotable. Often, their power lies in their unfolding."
—Richie Hofmann, Los Angeles Review of Books

“With the incomparably gorgeous, deftly poetic sentences that make up his work, Carl Phillips has been exploring intimacy, sexuality, and interiority for more than a decade.”
—Corinne Segal, Literary Hub

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