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This poem is taken from PN Review 262, Volume 48 Number 2, November - December 2021.

Four Poems Carl Phillips
Fall Colors

I’ve been looking hard at all my friendships – all of them together,
and each on its own – and although they feel real enough, from what
I can tell, on both sides, I understand now that what they have in common
is a lack of warmth and compassion; who can say at this point why that is,
or how it matters now, if it does. I say I understand it, but it’s more true
to say I’ve come to understand it, having had it pointed out to me, for no
reason that I remember, by the only man I think I’ve ever loved absolutely,
and still do. That’s a separate thing. Like my fear of fire. Or like how
much of my time I spend pretending I’m not afraid, negotiating this life
with all the seeming casualness with which a man whose business involves
the handling of fires daily
                                          daily handles a fire. Some days, it works: I 
almost believe myself, or more precisely, and more disturbingly, if I really
think about it (Don’t think about it), I almost believe in the self that’s just
an imitation of a self I want others to believe in enough for me eventually

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