Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE PINNACLE, by CARL PHILLIPS

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THE PINNACLE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Having found a trail, we

Having found a trail, we
but followed. Technically,
you followed me. How

much is not what it looks like.
I'm remembering parts
so overgrown, I kept

stopping to ask which way
from here. You did not
ask this question. Each time

I looked back, you weren't
stopping, you were
following, you were not

asking questions. In time
we came to a sloped
meadow. The tall grass

made me nervous.
Though I explained,
I was not understood

entirely. You were patient,
you allowed me some
time to become

different. If I didn't
change, you didn't notice,
for I pushed forward,

crossing the meadow by
playing a game in my head
called Cross the Meadow

or Don't Cross It, by which
we arrived at the wooded
hemline of forest. The path

steepening upward, but
more clear. We ascended.
I am remembering

the obvious-trees
mostly, and a hardness of
breath that you said had

less to do with altitude
than with shape, our
being out of. To agree was

easy, and not binding. I
liked that. Almost like
pleasure, for a small

distance. I am including,
in particular, that sudden
denseness of ferns you

called a sea, and I said it
was like that-but
wasn't it also some over-

whelmingly green argument
whose point was that
not everything requires

light? You did not
answer, having not asked
that question. As when, if

frequently there were
sounds nothing visible
could account for, I did

not pursue them. What is
not related? I am still
remembering the feathers

-five of them, long, a
lightish brown with
darker brown stippling-

you found scattered to
one of the trail's sides. I
had missed them:

those of a turkey, as
you suggested-or, as
I said, a pheasant? When

you said I should
hold them, I thanked you.
I can appreciate small

gifts. I stopped thinking
what I was thinking-the
uncleanliness of birds-

and took them into
my hand. I arranged
the feathers into the rough

shape of a fan, and began,
like that, to feel cooler, more
sure: the pinnacle we'd been

told the trail led to would
come, the trail would end
in what they usually do,

a view. There are limited
choices. Already Go
Down or Don't, in my head.

First Published in The Kenyon Review, Volume 22#3 (Summer/Fall 2000).

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