Carl Phillips

Three Poems

From a Bonfire

There’s plenty I miss, still, that I wouldn’t want back –
which I’m beginning to think might be all regret’s ever had
to mean, and there’s maybe no shame, then, in having
known some and, all these years, I’ve pretty much
been wrong. Not that being wrong means wasting time,
exactly. What hasn’t been useful? Having grown up with
bonfires each October, having equated them with fall,
the communion especially of leaves falling, fire as
what both defined the dark – easily taken for granted –
and kept the dark at bay, surely that’s been worth
something, for it stays with me; in that way, it even now
marks a difference between who I was and what I’ve
since become: a kind of bonfire myself – unattached,
though, to any time of year in particular, instead
a season of the mind entirely, as unpredictable
in occurrence as in intensity, cracked, blue,
forever half done departing, not so different
after all, maybe, from the darkness against which
I’m at once more apparent and somehow more
betrayed. What has restlessness been for, the darkness
asks, as if that were the question, when the darkness
itself is its own question, the most honest one left,
as far as I can see, that’s worth asking, that I keep
meaning to ask, then faltering, not at all out of fear,
I think – I don’t think I’m afraid – but being fire, and restless.

 

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