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Soot and Sage

Then the War: And Selected Poems, 2007-2020

Then the War: And Selected Poems, 2007-2020

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A new collection of poems from one of America’s most essential, celebrated, and enduring poets, Carl Phillips's Then the War

They planted flowers because the house had many rooms
and because they’d imagined a life in which
cut flowers punctuate each room, as if each were a sentence

not just to be decorated but to be given some discipline,
what the most memorable sentences—like people—always
slightly resist ... Spit of land; rags

of cloud-rack. Meanwhile,
hawk’s-nest, winter-nest, stamina as a form of faith, little
cove that a life equals, what they meant, I think, by

what they called the soul, twilight taking hold
deep in the marshweed, in the pachysandra, where the wind
can’t reach.

Then the war.
Then the field, and the mounted police
parading their proud-looking horses across it.

Then the next morning’s fog, the groundsmen barely visible
inside it, shadow-like, shade-like,
grooming the field back to immaculateness.

Then the curtains billowing out from the lightless room
toward the sea.
Then the one without hair

stroked the one who had some. They closed their eyes.
If gently, hard to say how gently.
Then the war was nothing that still bewildered them, if it ever had.

Meet the Maker

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