O C T O B E R 1 9 9 5
AS FROM A QUIVER OF ARROWS
by Carl Phillips
What do we do with the body, do we
burn it, do we set it in dirt or in
stone, do we wrap it in balm, honey,
oil, and then gauze and tip it onto
and trust it to a raft and to water?
What will happen to the memory of his
body, if one of us doesn't hurry now
and write it down fast? Will it be
salt or late light that it melts like?
Floss, rubber gloves, a chewed cap
to a pen elsewhere--how are we to
regard his effects, do we throw them
or use them away, do we say they are
relics and so treat them like relics?
Does his soiled linen count? If so,
would we be wrong, then, to wash it?
There are no instructions whether it
should go to where are those with no
linen, or whether by night we should
memorially wear it ourselves, by day
reflect upon it folded, shelved, empty.
Here, on the floor behind his bed, is
a bent photo--why? Were the two of
them lovers? Does it mean, where we
found it, that he forgot it or lost it
or intended a safekeeping? Should we
attempt to make contact? What if this
other man too is dead? Or alive, but
doesn't want to remember, is human?
Is it okay to be human, and fall away
from oblation and memory, if we forget,
and can't sometimes help it and sometimes
it is all that we want? How long, in
dawns or new cocks, does that take?
What if it is rest and nothing else that
we want? Is it a findable thing, small?
In what hole is it hidden? Is it, maybe,
a country? Will a guide be required who
will say to us how? Do we fly? Do we
swim? What will I do now, with my hands?
Carl Phillips is a visiting assistant professor of English and American
literature and language at Harvard University. He is the author of In the Blood
(1992) and Cortege, which will be published this fall.
Copyright © 1995 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights
The Atlantic Monthly; October 1995; As From a Quiver of Arrows; Volume 276, No. 4;