Header PostFeaturedImage 01

Fixed Shadow, Moving Water by Carl Phillips

Fixed Shadow, Moving Water
by Carl Phillips

One friend tells me everything’s political,
another says nothing is, we just make it political.
By “we”, he means human beings, I assume—
what’s political to a fox curled in sleep,
or a pond, or a sycamore in winter with no leaves left
to stop the snow falling through it? I have loved you
for less time than I have loved some others,
but none more deeply than you; no one more
absolutely. Which, as if inevitably, amounts
to a hierarchy of sorts, doesn’t it? Value,
then the power that comes with it—soon enough,
the distribution of power, who gets to do the distributing…

But if we make of tenderness a countervailing force, the
two of us—

If we can make, from tenderness, a revolution—

Then the War: And Selected Poems, 2007-2020 by Carl PhillipsSOURCE

This poem appeared in Then the War: And Selected Poems, 2007-2020 by Carl Phillips, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023. Shared here with deep gratitude.


“Carl Phillips has aptly described his work as an “ongoing quest”; Then the War is the next step in that meaningful process of self-discovery for both the poet and his reader. The new poems, written in a time of rising racial conflict in the United States, with its attendant violence and uncertainty, find Phillips entering deeper into the landscape he has made his own: a forest of intimacy, queerness, and moral inquiry, where the farther we go, the more difficult it is to remember why or where we started.

Then the War includes a generous selection of Phillips’s work from the previous thirteen years, as well as his recent lyric prose memoir, “Among the Trees,” and his chapbook, Star Map with Action Figures.

Ultimately, Phillips refuses pessimism, arguing for tenderness and human connection as profound forces for revolution and conjuring a spell against indifference and the easy escapes of nostalgia. Then the War is luminous testimony to the power of self-reckoning and to Carl Phillips as an ever-changing, necessary voice in contemporary poetry.”


This little corner of the world is my passion project since 2005My commitment is that it will always remain free to all. If this place holds meaning for you, would you consider supporting it? This can be in the form of a cup of coffee (+ other ways).


Note that Read A Little Poetry may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through any links on this site. It is at no additional cost to you and helps in the upkeep of this space.


Thank you for being here all these years—and into the future—as I hold poets to the light.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.