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Sumita Chakraborty reads Carl Phillip's poem “As from a Quiver of Arrows".


POEM: As From a Quiver of Arrows
BOOK: From the Devotions
AUTHOR: Carl Phillips
PUBLISHER: Graywolf Press

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I'm Sumita Chakraborty and I'm going to be reading the poem "As from a Quiver of Arrows" by Carl Phillips.

One of my favorite things about poetry broadly is that it's a really great language in which to ask very difficult questions. And that's one of the main reasons I love this poem which is made out of relentless questions. "As from a Quiver of Arrows" 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, and 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 find-able 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?