My Meadow, My Twilight

by Carl Phillips

Sure, there’s a spell the leaves can make, shuddering,
and in their lying suddenly still again – flat, and still,
like time itself when it seems unexpectedly more
available, more to lose therefore, more to love, or
try to …
            But to look up from the leaves, remember,
is a choice also, as if up from the shame of it all,
the promiscuity, the seeing-how-nothing-now-will-
save-you, up to the wind-stripped branches shadow-
signing the ground before you the way, lately, all
the branches seem to, or you like to say they do,
which is at least half of the way, isn’t it, toward
belief – whatever, in the end, belief
                        is … You can
look up, or you can close the eyes entirely, making
some of the world, for a moment, go away, but only
some of it, not the part about hurting others as the one
good answer to being hurt, and not the part that can
at first seem, understandably, a life in ruins, even if –
refusing ruin, because you
                        can refuse – you look
again, down the steep corridor of what’s just another
late winter afternoon, dark as night already, dark
the leaves and, darker still, the door that, each night,
you keep meaning to find again, having lost it, you had
only to touch it, just once, and it bloomed wide open …

Notes on the Poem

Carl Phillips' meditative poem "My Meadow, My Twilight" from his 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection Silverchest swiftly and gently pulls you into a quiet, contemplative place. It doesn't leave you there for long, but thankfully, it doesn't abandon you. Still gently but firmly, it points you in a potential new direction The poem's line lengths and structure lend it a subtly rhythmic sense that suggests calmed thought, the thinker freed from distraction as he takes refuge in nature at a quiet time of the day. The line indents seem like intakes of breath, perhaps suggesting the thinker is not entirely at ease, but striving to be so. Under "a spell the leaves can make," the train of thought captured in the poem is introspective and inward looking, even as the narrator/thinker and you the reader are encouraged to confront things that are harsh or judgmental, suggested by phrases such as "the shame of it all, / the promiscuity" and "the wind-stripped branches". In turn, the poem leads to a quietly revelatory ending, where the narrator/ruminator is compelled, emboldened, inspired to look outward, out of the darkness and back into the light. Perhaps it's not a new direction, exactly ... "the door that, each night, you keep meaning to find again" ... but one that has perhaps been avoided, inadvertently or perhaps purposely lost, and needs revisiting.

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