Carl Phillips
Wake Up

The road down from everything even you had hardly dared

to hope for has its lonely stretches, yes, but it’s hard to feel alone

entirely: there’s a river that runs beside it the whole way down,

and there’s an over-song that keeps the river company: I’m leaves,

you’re the wind…


                             I used to think the song had to do with the leaves’

confusion, the wind letting up, their mistaking this for something

like courtesy on the wind’s part, or even forgiveness. But leaves don’t

get confused. Silly, to think it. And what can leaves know of courtesy,

let alone forgiveness? What’s forgiveness?


                                                                  Wake up, for the falconer

has lost his falcon. He has heard that falcons are like memory, they

come back. But not all memories do, not all memories should. If

anyone knows this, it’s the falconer. How long ago that was…Yet


all the varieties of good fortune he’s come upon, as a hand comes

idly upon an orchard’s windfalls, how different he’s become since –

none of it matters, when the falconer steps back into memory as into

a vast cathedral, which is to say, when he remembers.


                                                                                    How cool it is,

inside the cathedral. And at first, how dark. Soon, though, he can see

a chapel set aside for prayers specifically to the virgin whose story he’s

always resisted. He sees a corner where people have lit candles, sometimes for another’s suffering, sometimes for their own. He sees the altar with the falcon sitting on top of it.


                                               The weight of grief over what’s lost,

versus the shadow of what’s lost – forever struggling to return,

and failing: who can say which is better? The falconer’s eye meets the falcon’s eye:


I have a story, the falcon says, seems to, the wings lifting, the feathers

rippling with a story’s parts – I have a story; I can’t wait to tell you.






Found In Volume 48, No. 02
Read Issue
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Carl Phillips
About the Author

Carl Phillips’s most recent books of poetry are Wild Is the Wind (2018), Reconnaissance (2015), Silverchest (2013), and  Double Shadow (2011, winner Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry and finalist for the National Book Award).