Delicately, Slow, the World Comes Back

by Carl Phillips

So what if usefulness, thin as figment,
but sturdier, sturdy enough, seems the one gift
I’ve been able to give, that I didn’t take back. The bamboo

does its folding and unfolding thing anyway, under the wind,
across, over it. Hard to say how the parts that hurt in life,
most of them, ever come to pass. The wild dog in my head

that I keep for company, that I’d been told could
not be tamed, which is why I wanted him, I think,
or I think so now, becomes daily more tractable: I raise

my hand; he fairly falls beneath it. Half of me says I’m
the wrong answer, while the other says no, maybe
just more difficult, the harder one

to choose. The dog looks up at me,
then quickly away. Pretty soon, I’ll have broken him. Little prize;
bit of trophy. —And what will usefulness be then?

Published on July 1, 2020

First published in Harvard Review 43