“Return to the Land of the Golden Apples,” by Carl Phillips

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Return to the Land of the Golden Apples,” by Carl Phillips, appeared in MQR’s Spring 2001 issue.


Blue wash. The winged horses look
like horses—artless, free
of connotation. They hide

just now their wings,
or they forget, or do not
think to make

much more of a gift
for flight than
of the water viewable

behind them—a sea,
a lake—
which they ignore, pulling

at the record-of-where-a-wind-was,
the now-resist-now-don’t,
and other flowers

whose growth has even
outstripped the grass, the colors
wind as far as the ruined tower, up

even to the room that
crowns it, over the half moss, half
ledge of window, glassless,

into the room, which is small,
not empty: the body,
and a mirror. Inside

the mirror, the body
turning, stopping,
—sometimes the way, in

sudden shadow, will any
animal; sometimes,
as the hero stops

in the gathering light of reputation
he soon must recognize
is his own. The body

inside the mirror, turning,
singing I am the one who forces,
I am the one who stays

to watch,
I am the grit gone somehow
shine, the blow,

the forced thing, opening
—Singing inside the mirror,
to no one, to

itself, the body folding, and
unfolding—as if
map, then shroud—its song.


Image: Klimt, Gustav. “Goldener Apfelbaum.” 1903. Oil on canvas.

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