2004 National Book Award Finalist: Poetry

Carl Phillips

The Rest of Love, by Carl Phillips Carl Phillips

The Rest of Love

About the Book

Poems that explore the physical, emotional, and spiritual myths we both create and destroy in the name of desire.

Author Biography

Carl Phillips was born in 1959. He is the author of seven books of poems, most recently Rock Harbor (2002) and The Tether (2001) which was awarded the 2002 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize. Mr. Phillips other volumes of poems include: In the Blood (1992); Cortège (1995), finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; From the Devotions (1998), Finalist for the National Book Award; and Pastoral.

Mr. Phillips has received numerous honors, including the Morse Poetry Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, the Pushcart Prize, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an Academy of American Poets Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Library of Congress.

Mr. Phillips is professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis.

Excerpt from The Rest of Love by Carl Phillips.

Copyright © 2004 by Carl Phillips. To be published in February, 2004 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.


There is a difference it used to make,
seeing three swans in this versus four in that
quadrant of sky. I am not imagining. It was very large, as its
effects were. Declarations of war, the timing fixed upon for a sea—
departure; or,
about love, a sudden decision not to, to pretend instead to a kind
of choice. It was dramatic, as it should be. Without drama,
what is ritual? I look for omens everywhere, because they are everywhere
to be found. They come to me like strays, like the damaged,
something that could know better, and should, therefore—but does not:
a form of faith, you've said. I call it sacrifice—an instinct for it, or a habit
at first, that
becomes required, the way art can become, eventually, all we have
of what was true. You shouldn't look at me like that. Like one of those
on whom the birds once settled freely.


The glass is old:
through it, the world—
its parts—
coming up:

To look through it,
I could be looking through
river-water, the river
slowing but
never down, quite, to

I had thought so,
I had wanted to think so.
Was that wrong, then?

Last night, the storm was
hours approaching.
Too far, still, to be heard.
Only the sky, when lit—
less flashing than
quivering brokenly

(a wing,
not any wing,
a sparrow's)—for a sign.

It seemed exactly the way
I've loved you.

And you a stone,
marked Gone Already
a leaf,
marked Spattered Milk

in that light, then out of.

I closed my eyes. I
dreamed again the dream
called Yes: the worst
is true.

In it,
I wake.
I lean my head against the glass.
How cool the glass is.


Author Photo Credit: Doug Macomber