• Don't

    Carl Phillips

    Spring 2019

    Though the city itself has long since
    been smashed up and plundered for anything left
    worth plundering,
                                 the walls that surrounded it
    stand unbroken, still, as if war—like time,
    technically—didn’t really exist. Can time exist, if it’s
    just an understanding? For animals, to rise to the hunt
    at nightfall, to lie sated by dawn—
                                                              is that time? People
    built walls around cities long ago, to protect the city. But
    the walls, though they announce, or suggest at least,
    that there’s a city behind them, make of the city
    itself—of the various lives that any city
    equals—a secret, finally. So,
                                                    to protect becomes also
    to make secret. To protect, to wall in, to make
    unfindable, as sometimes dignity, I suppose,

    Carl Phillips’s new book of poems is Then the War: And Selected Poems 2007-2020 (FSG 2022). His prose book My Trade is Mystery: Seven Meditations from a Life in Writing is available from Yale University Press.

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