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And it came to pass, that meaning faltered

Carl Phillips

The looked-at lilies sit on the windowsill
Impatient for the end of day to drop
Their heads—a year before they will return.
They smell like saints who will not decompose
The bulletin says, but the only scent is a white flag.
Shadows of trees on the ceiling fluctuate—
If I knew nothing, I could say
It was the spirit, moving through the air.

If I embraced the minister in the pulpit,
Whispers of lunacy would pollinate
The parishioners, but flesh is what this is
About—except that he cannot be touched,
Only the empty space of his hand. The not-here,
The knot here in my head—eternity.

Wonder once filled the sacristy of my skull,
Now there is a null. Remember the sign:
An empty circle with a line scratched through it,
A claw mark across a halo.

If there is nothing, then.
Death is ordinary. Mary was afraid
Of the extraordinary—no death. She had seen
Christ relight the bodies of the dead,
A kind of magic, but this was something else—
Self-resurrection—a solidifying
Prophecy. Now there is only giving in.


My days are jumbled marbles in a jar,
Hoping no one pulls the cat’s eye out.
In ordinary time, the air in the church
Goes dry, sand-scrubbed. Sahara dust blows
Across the Atlantic. It’s always with us,
In our hair, eyes, from out of Egypt, we lose
Our way. We want the revolving earth to slow.

Summer passed with loss and no return
Of gain—the fattened fruits on the vine,
Sugar-full, ready to rot.
The window heated from the sunshine,
I think it is the residue of body
After the soul passes through.
Lord, why do I want to break the glass?
I want the damage to be physical.
Distracting from the psychical.

I drew a kitchen knife across my wrist,
Lightly, just for motion’s sake.
Erase it down, Lord, to pressure marks,
Let the wind have its way and when it takes
The leaves, let it slough my body too.


The Devil is a mockingbird.
And Doubt is a floater in the eye.
And Jesus is a needle and thread.
And Christ is the mother of ecstasy.
And God is excited electrons.
And Death is the black hole no sleep escapes.

In the last winds where the late leaves twist,
From whose breath will I awake?


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