Poem of the Week | May 02, 2016

To celebrate the release of our new spring Editors’ Prize issue, 39.1, we’re delighted to feature a poem by our prize-winning poet Phillip B. Williams. Williams is a Chicago, IL native and author of the poetry collection Thief in the Interior (Alice James Books). He is currently the Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry at Emory University.
Author’s note:

“The Field” is, I think, one of the first poems I wrote where I felt as though I moved finally into the realm of world-making that I wanted so badly to begin. The energy of myth is the focus of this poem and also how easily changes of environment, of what is seen, occur by simply turning the camera just a bit. Whatever is adjacent is itself a new world unto itself; looking out of a window reveals not just a scene but a constant shift of simultaneous seeing. What is at the periphery eventually overpowers what was once in focus though it does not erase what came before. What was once present and eventually dropped out returns. The living horse becomes a metaphor for failure becomes a ghost of a horse. The hunger of the hare and fox is satisfied and shown as satisfied by the “bones left bare.” This is exactly the terrain I want to traverse and I hope I can pull off this vision again.


The Field


The battered field is hateful without remorse,
is as seductive as what is familiar: a wild horse
who long ceased being horse, had become beauty itself


failing as the field has failed or someone has failed
the field with overuse, the gray soil too sparse,
its blond grass in tight nubs and stiff as scimitars


that jut from the earth declarations of war.
The barrenness cannot feed the hares who feed
the foxes who feed the bloodlust of men.


There is a dead dogwood stunted
in its naked reach. A storm rolls over
the jagged boughs that rake the soft belly


of the blackened air until lightning clarifies its scars.
Scimitars could scar a belly with their sharpness,
with their curves like a gleaming succubus


sliding on each nerves’ nylon until the harp is
undone. Or the harp is played to the tune
wind makes undressing in an arid field. This is love


if someone says so. A man weeps
to soft music in his house though nothing
can hear him outside his window, his mouth


like a ripple in a pond after a frog leaps out
then leaps back in, a word spoken
by mistake that the speaker wants to take back.


The word could be like love too if broken,
more broken than the shrill gate outside
swinging open then shut, obliterating entrance


and exit. Here waits the god whose flute reveals and hides
the way. She is mischievous with her song
coming off the rusted hinges. The gate is flanked


by two stone pillars both topped with pots
that once held lavender but now hold moldy soil,
one sweet smell deposed by another. Rot


and the bones left bare is the story of the hare and fox
while the felled horse crafts the field’s ugliness,
its ghost hooves crushing the ground. Let the gate


squeal shut against that bestiary. The world’s
revision of itself roils through the sky. Storm
of bruised clouds, lightning and the last living beast


revealed in bursts: first its outline. Next its distant
maw made clear in that moment of light. Then two
golden eyes, an abacus by which to count the days.