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Andrew Birkhead
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Poem

Posted on March 17, 2009 in: Uncategorized by Andrew Birkhead

Civilization

by Carl Phillips March 23, 2009

There’s an art

to everything. How

the rain means

April and an ongoing-ness like

that of song until at last

it ends. A centuries-old

set of silver handbells that

once an altar boy swung,

processing . . . You’re the same

wilderness you’ve always

been, slashing through briars,

the bracken

of your invasive

self. So he said,

in a dream. But

the rest of it—all the rest—

was waking: more often

than not, to the next

extravagance. Two blackamoor

statues, each mirroring

the other, each hoisting

forever upward his burden of

hand-painted, carved-by-hand

peacock feathers. Don’t

you know it, don’t you know

I love you, he said. He was

shaking. He said,

I love you. There’s an art

to everything. What I’ve

done with this life,

what I’d meant not to do,

or would have meant, maybe, had I

understood, though I have

no regrets. Not the broken but

still flowering dogwood. Not

the honey locust, either. Not even

the ghost walnut with its

non-branches whose

every shadow is memory,

memory . . . As he said to me

once, That’s all garbage

down the river, now. Turning,

but as the utterly lost—

because addicted—do:

resigned all over again. It

only looked, it—

It must only look

like leaving. There’s an art

to everything. Even

turning away. How

eventually even hunger

can become a space

to live in. How they made

out of shamelessness something

beautiful, for as long as they could.

I found the poem here.

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