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Callaloo 24.4 (2001) 1161-1162
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The letter arrived open, unsigned.
You will have heard from us by now,
it said. Handwritten. A strong hand. On heavy bond.
Yes--barely, though; like all but having left.
Like leaving always.
Lying beside the sea,
and falling into a dream of the sea.
Waking from it. Closing again our eyes . . .
Singing. Hymns, mostly:
Who Will Help? And Who Will
Stop Me? Or From
Which Side Stop Myself?
--as if directions to but three of
many more then three small islands;
as if the songs might themselves, ever, have been
--might still be--
three of many more such islands, just as small.
Plovers, making of a distance to be crossed
one crossed already. How calm now, the air
through which they pass. [End Page 1161]
If I say to you the only sound is beating and beating's
interruption, I could be speaking of the ocean.
I could be speaking of the heart.
Sand-shelves of yellow beach-heath,
roots indifferently exposed.
Litter of spent balloons, like an
almost, soon to be
forgotten entirely understanding as to what any fuss
One of them was sucking the others--in turn, slowish--off.
That they came could be told by listening only.--
For on their faces lay no sign.
Carl Phillips is the author of From the Devotions, a finalist for the National Book Award, In the Blood, winner of the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize, Cortége, finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, Pastoral, and his most recent collection, Tether (2001). He teaches at Washington University (St. Louis), where he has also served as the director of the Creative Writing Program.