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by Jorie Graham |

San Sepolcro

 In this blue light
 I can take you there,
snow having made me
 a world of bone
seen through to. This
 is my house,

my section of Etruscan
 wall, my neighbor's
lemontrees, and, just below
 the lower church,
the airplane factory.
 A rooster

crows all day from mist
 outside the walls.
There's milk on the air,
 ice on the oily
lemonskins. How clean
 the mind is,

holy grave. It is this girl
 by Piero
della Francesca, unbuttoning
 her blue dress,
her mantle of weather,
 to go into

labor. Come, we can go in.
 It is before
the birth of god. No one
 has risen yet
to the museums, to the assembly

and wings--to the open air
 market. This is
what the living do: go in.
 It's a long way.
And the dress keeps opening
 from eternity

to privacy, quickening.
 Inside, at the heart,
is tragedy, the present moment
 forever stillborn,
but going in, each breath
 is a button

coming undone, something terribly
finding all of the stops.

by Jorie Graham |

Le Manteau De Pascal

 I have put on my great coat it is cold.

It is an outer garment.

Coarse, woolen.

Of unknown origin.


It has a fine inner lining but it is 
as an exterior that you see it — a grace.


I have a coat I am wearing. It is a fine admixture.
The woman who threw the threads in the two directions
has made, skillfully, something dark-true,
as the evening calls the bird up into
the branches of the shaven hedgerows,
to twitter bodily
a makeshift coat — the boxelder cut back stringently by the owner 
that more might grow next year, and thicker, you know — 
the birds tucked gestures on the inner branches — 
and space in the heart, 
not shade-giving, not 
chronological...Oh transformer, logic, where are you here in this fold, 
my name being called-out now but back, behind, 
in the upper world....


I have a coat I am wearing I was told to wear it.
Someone knelt down each morning to button it up.
I looked at their face, down low, near me.
What is longing? what is a star?
Watched each button a peapod getting tucked back in. 
Watched harm with its planeloads folded up in the sleeves. 
Watched grappling hooks trawl through the late-night waters. 
Watched bands of stations scan unable to ascertain.
There are fingers, friend, that never grow sluggish.
They crawl up the coat and don't miss an eyehole.
Glinting in kitchenlight.
Supervised by the traffic god.
Hissed at by grassblades that wire-up outside
their stirring rhetoric — this is your land, this is my my — 


You do understanding, don't you, by looking?
The coat, which is itself a ramification, a city,
floats vulnerably above another city, ours,
the city on the hill (only with hill gone),
floats in illustration
of what once was believed, and thus was visible — 
(all things believed are visible) —
floats a Jacob's ladder with hovering empty arms, an open throat,
a place where a heart might beat if it wishes,
pockets that hang awaiting the sandy whirr of a small secret,
folds where the legs could be, with their kneeling mechanism,
the floating fatigue of an after-dinner herald,
not guilty of any treason towards life except fatigue,
a skillfully cut coat, without chronology,
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed —
as then it is, abruptly, the last stitch laid in, the knot bit off —
hung there in Gravity, as if its innermost desire,
numberless the awaitings flickering around it,
the other created things also floating but not of the same order, no,
not like this form, built so perfectly to mantle the body,
the neck like a vase awaiting its cut flower,
a skirting barely visible where the tucks indicate
the mild loss of bearing in the small of the back,
the grammar, so strict, of the two exact shoulders —
and the law of the shouldering —
and the chill allowed to skitter up through,
and those crucial spots where the fit cannot be perfect — 
oh skirted loosening aswarm with lessenings,
with the mild pallors of unaccomplishment,
flaps night-air collects in,
folds... But the night does not annul its belief in,
the night preserves its love for, this one narrowing of infinity,
that floats up into the royal starpocked blue its ripped, distracted supervisor —
this coat awaiting recollection,
this coat awaiting the fleeting moment, the true moment, the hill,the vision of the hill,
and then the moment when the prize is lost, and the erotic tinglings of the dream of reason 
are left to linger mildly in the weave of the fabric according to the rules,
the wool gabardine mix, with its grammatical weave, 
never never destined to lose its elasticity, 
its openness to abandonment, 
its willingness to be disturbed.


July 11 ... Oaks: the organization of this tree is difficult. Speaking generally 
no doubt the determining planes are concentric, a system of brief contiguous and 
continuous tangents, whereas those of the cedar wd. roughly be called horizontals 
and those of the beech radiating but modified by droop and by a screw-set towards 
jutting points. But beyond this since the normal growth of the boughs is radiating 
there is a system of spoke-wise clubs of green — sleeve-pieces. And since the 
end shoots curl and carry young scanty leaf-stars these clubs are tapered, and I 
have seen also pieces in profile with chiseled outlines, the blocks thus made 
detached and lessening towards the end. However the knot-star is the chief thing: 
it is whorled, worked round, and this is what keeps up the illusion of the tree. 
Oaks differ much, and much turns on the broadness of the leaves, the narrower 
giving the crisped and starry and catharine-wheel forms, the broader the flat-pieced 
mailed or chard-covered ones, in wh. it is possible to see composition in dips, etc. 
But I shall study them further. It was this night I believe but possibly the next 
that I saw clearly the impossibility of staying in the Church of England.


How many coats do you think it will take?

The coat was a great-coat.

The Emperor's coat was.

How many coats do you think it will take?

The undercoat is dry. What we now want is?

The sky can analyse the coat because of the rips in it. 

The sky shivers through the coat because of the rips in it. 

The rips in the sky ripen through the rips in the coat. 

There is no quarrel.


I take off my coat and carry it.


There is no emergency.


I only made that up.


Behind everything the sound of something dripping

The sound of something: I will vanish, others will come here, what is that? 

The canvas flapping in the wind like the first notes of our absence

An origin is not an action though it occurs at the very start

Desire goes travelling into the total dark of another's soul 
looking for where it breaks off

I was a hard thing to undo


The life of a customer 

What came on the paper plate 

overheard nearby

an impermanence of structure

watching the lip-reading

had loved but couldn't now recognize


What are the objects, then, that man should consider most important? 

What sort of a question is that he asks them.

The eye only discovers the visible slowly.

It floats before us asking to be worn,

offering "we must think about objects at the very moment 
when all their meaning is abandoning them"

and "the title provides a protection from significance" 

and "we are responsible for the universe."


I have put on my doubting, my wager, it is cold.
It is an outer garment, or, conversely a natural covering,
so coarse and woolen, also of unknown origin,
a barely apprehensible dilution of evening into
an outer garment, or, conversely a natural covering,
to twitter bodily a makeshift coat,
that more might grow next year, and thicker, you know,
not shade-giving, not chronological,
my name being called out now but from out back, behind,
an outer garment, so coarse and woolen,
also of unknown origin, not shade-giving, not chronological,
each harm with its planeloads folded up in the sleeves,
you do understand, don't you, by looking?
the jacob's ladder with its floating arms its open throat,
that more might grow next year, and thicker, you know, 
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed, 
the other created things also floating but not of the same order, 
not shade-giving, not chronological, 
you do understand, don't you, by looking? 
a neck like a vase awaiting its cut flower, 
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed,
the moment the prize is lost, the erotic tingling, 
the wool-gabardine mix, its grammatical weave
 — you do understand, don't you, by looking? —
never never destined to lose its elasticity,
it was this night I believe but possibly the next
I saw clearly the impossibility of staying
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed,
also of unknown origin, not shade-giving, not chronological 
since the normal growth of boughs is radiating 
a system of spoke-wise clubs of green — sleeve pieces —
never never destined to lose its elasticity 
my name being called out now but back, behind, 
hissing how many coats do you think it will take
"or try with eyesight to divide" (there is no quarrel)
behind everything the sound of something dripping
a system of spoke-wise clubs of green — sleeve pieces
filled with the sensation of suddenly being completed 
the wool gabardine mix, the grammatical weave,
the never-never-to-lose-its-elasticity: my name 
flapping in the wind like the first note of my absence
hissing how many coats do you think it will take
are you a test case is it an emergency
flapping in the wind the first note of something
overheard nearby an impermanence of structure
watching the lip-reading, there is no quarrel,
I will vanish, others will come here, what is that,
never never to lose the sensation of suddenly being 
completed in the wind — the first note of our quarrel —
it was this night I believe or possibly the next 
filled with the sensation of being suddenly completed,
I will vanish, others will come here, what is that now 
floating in the air before us with stars a test case 
that I saw clearly the impossibility of staying

by Jorie Graham |

The Guardian Angel Of The Private Life

 All this was written on the next day's list.
On which the busyness unfurled its cursive roots,
pale but effective,
and the long stem of the necessary, the sum of events,
built-up its tiniest cathedral...
(Or is it the sum of what takes place? )
If I lean down, to whisper, to them,
down into their gravitational field, there where they head busily on
into the woods, laying the gifts out one by one, onto the path,
hoping to be on the air,
hoping to please the children -- 
(and some gifts overwrapped and some not wrapped at all) -- if
I stir the wintered ground-leaves
up from the paths, nimbly, into a sheet of sun,
into an escape-route-width of sun, mildly gelatinous where wet, though mostly
fluffing them up a bit, and up, as if to choke the singularity of sun
with this jubilation of manyness, all through and round these passers-by -- 
just leaves, nothing that can vaporize into a thought,
no, a burning bush's worth of spidery, up-ratcheting, tender-cling leaves,
oh if -- the list gripped hard by the left hand of one,
the busyness buried so deep into the puffed-up greenish mind of one,
the hurried mind hovering over its rankings,
the heart -- there at the core of the drafting leaves -- wet and warm at the
zero of
the bright mock-stairwaying-up of the posthumous leaves -- the heart,
formulating its alleyways of discovery,
fussing about the integrity of the whole,
the heart trying to make time and place seem small,
sliding its slim tears into the deep wallet of each new event
on the list
then checking it off -- oh the satisfaction -- each check a small kiss,
an echo of the previous one, off off it goes the dry high-ceilinged
checked-off by the fingertips, by the small gust called done that swipes
the unfinishable's gold hem aside, revealing
what might have been, peeling away what should . . .
There are flowerpots at their feet.
There is fortune-telling in the air they breathe.
It filters-in with its flashlight-beam, its holy-water-tinted air,
down into the open eyes, the lampblack open mouth.
Oh listen to these words I'm spitting out for you.
My distance from you makes them louder.
Are we all waiting for the phone to ring?
Who should it be? What fountain is expected to
thrash forth mysteries of morning joy? What quail-like giant tail of 
promises, pleiades, psalters, plane-trees,
what parapets petalling-forth the invisible
into the world of things,
turning the list into its spatial-form at last,
into its archival many-headed, many-legged colony . . .
Oh look at you.
What is it you hold back? What piece of time is it the list
won't cover? You down there, in the theater of
operations -- you, throat of the world -- so diacritical -- 
(are we all waiting for the phone to ring?) -- 
(what will you say? are you home? are you expected soon?) -- 
oh wanderer back from break, all your attention focused
 -- as if the thinking were an oar, this ship the last of some
original fleet, the captains gone but some of us
who saw the plan drawn-out
still here -- who saw the thinking clot-up in the bodies of the greater men,
who saw them sit in silence while the voices in the other room
lit-up with passion, itchings, dreams of landings,
while the solitary ones,
heads in their hands, so still,
the idea barely forming
at the base of that stillness,
the idea like a homesickness starting just to fold and pleat and knot-itself
out of the manyness -- the plan -- before it's thought,
before it's a done deal or the name-you're-known-by -- 
the men of x, the outcomes of y -- before -- 
the mind still gripped hard by the hands
that would hold the skull even stiller if they could,
that nothing distract, that nothing but the possible be let to filter
the possible and then the finely filamented hope, the filigree,
without the distractions of wonder -- 
oh tiny golden spore just filtering-in to touch the good idea,
which taking-form begins to twist,
coursing for bottom-footing, palpating for edge-hold, limit,
now finally about to
rise, about to go into the other room -- and yet
not having done so yet, not yet -- the
intake -- before the credo, before the plan -- 
right at the homesickness -- before this list you hold 
in your exhausted hand. Oh put it down.

by Jorie Graham |

The Surface

 It has a hole in it. Not only where I


The river still ribboning, twisting up, 

 into its re-

arrangements, chill enlightenments, tight-knotted


and loosenings--whispered messages dissolving

 the messengers--

the river still glinting-up into its handfuls, heapings.


forgettings under the river of

my attention--

and the river of my attention laying itself down--


reassembling--over the quick leaving-offs and windy


and the surface rippling under the wind's attention--

rippling over the accumulations, the slowed-down drifting


of the cold


I say iridescent and I look down.

The leaves very still as they are carried.

by Jorie Graham |

The Guardian Angel Of The Little Utopia

 Shall I move the flowers again?
Shall I put them further to the left
into the light?
Win that fix it, will that arrange the
Yellow sky.
Faint cricket in the dried-out bush.
As I approach, my footfall in the leaves
drowns out the cricket-chirping I was
coming close to hear 
Yellow sky with black leaves rearranging it.
Wind rearranging the black leaves in it.
But anyway I am indoors, of course, and this is a pane, here,
and I have arranged the flowers for you
again. Have taken the dead cordless ones, the yellow bits past apogee,
the faded cloth, the pollen-free abandoned marriage-hymn
back out, leaving the few crisp blooms to swagger, winglets, limpid

Shall I arrange these few remaining flowers?
Shall I rearrange these gossamer efficiencies?
Please don't touch me with your skin.
Please let the thing evaporate.
Please tell me clearly what it is.
The party is so loud downstairs, bristling with souvenirs.
It's a philosophy of life, of course,
drinks fluorescent, whips of syntax in the air
above the heads -- how small they seem from here,
the bobbing universal heads, stuffing the void with eloquence,
and also tiny merciless darts
of truth. It's pulled on tight, the air they breathe and rip.
It's like a prize the way it's stretched on tight
over the voices, keeping them intermingling, forcing the breaths to

 marry, marry,
cunning little hermeneutic cupola,
dome of occasion in which the thoughts re-
group, the footprints stall and gnaw in tiny ruts,
the napkins wave, are waved , the honeycombing
thoughts are felt to dialogue, a form of self-
congratulation, no?, or is it suffering? I'm a bit
dizzy up here rearranging things,
they will come up here soon, and need a setting for their fears,
and loves, an architecture for their evolutionary
morphic needs -- what will they need if I don't make the place? --
what will they know to miss?, what cry out for, what feel the bitter

 restless irritations
for? A bit dizzy from the altitude of everlastingness,
the tireless altitudes of the created place,
in which to make a life -- a liberty -- the hollow, fetishized, and starry

a bit gossamer with dream, a vortex of evaporations,
oh little dream, invisible city, invisible hill
I make here on the upper floors for you --
down there, where you are entertained, where you are passing
time, there's glass and moss on air,
there's the feeling of being numerous, mouths submitting to air, lips

 to protocol,
and dreams of sense, tongues, hinges, forceps clicking
in anticipation ofas if the moment, freeze-burned by accuracies--of
could be thawed open into life again
by gladnesses, by rectitude -- no, no -- by the sinewy efforts at
sincerity -- can't you feel it gliding round you,
mutating, yielding the effort-filled phrases of your talk to air,
compounding, stemming them, honeying-open the sheerest

 innuendoes till
the rightness seems to root, in the air, in the compact indoor sky,
and the rest, all round, feels like desert, falls away,
and you have the sensation of muscular timeliness,and you feel the calligraphic in you reach out like a soul
into the midst of others, in conversation,
gloved by desire, into the tiny carnage
of opinionsSo dizzy. Life buzzing beneath me
though my feeling says the hive is gone, queen gone,
the continuum continuing beneath, busy, earnest, in con-
versation. Shall I prepare. Shall I put this further
to the left, shall I move the light, the point-of-view, the shades are
drawn, to cast a glow resembling disappearance, slightly red,
will that fix it, will that make clear the task, the trellised ongoingness
and all these tiny purposes, these parables, this marketplace
of tightening truths?
Oh knit me that am crumpled dust,
the heap is all dispersed. Knit me that am. Say therefore. Say
philosophy and mean by that the pane.
Let us look out again. The yellow sky.
With black leaves rearranging it

by Jorie Graham |

Underneath (9)

Up, up you go, you must be introduced.

You must learn belonging to (no-one)

Drenched in the white veil (day)

The circle of minutes pushed gleaming onto your finger.

Gaps pocking the brightness where you try to see

Missing: corners, fields,

completeness: holes growing in it where the eye looks hardest.

Below, his chest, a sacred weightless place

and the small weight of your open hand on it.

And these legs, look, still yours, after all you've done with them.

Explain the six missing seeds.

Explain muzzled.

Explain tongue breaks thin fire in eyes.

Learn what the great garden-(up, up you go)-exteriority,

the green never-the-less the green who-did-you-say-you-are

and how it seems to stare all the time, that green,

until night blinds it temporarily.

What is it searching for all the leaves turning towards you. 

Breath the emptiest of the freedoms.

When will they notice the hole in your head (they won't).

When will they feel for the hole in your chest 

Up, go. Let being-seen drift over you again, sticky kindness. 

Those wet strangely unstill eyes filling their heads-

thinking or sight?-

all waiting for the true story-

your heart, beating its little song: explain. . .

Explain requited

Explain indeed the blood of your lives I will require

explain the strange weight of meanwhile

and there exists another death in regards to which

we are not immortal

variegated dappled spangled intricately wrought

complicated obstruse subtle devious 

scintillating with change and ambiguity


Explain two are

Explain not one

(in theory) (and in practice)

blurry, my love, like a right quotation,

wanting so to sink back down,

you washing me in soil now, my shoulders dust, my rippling dust,

Look I'll scrub the dirt listen.

Up here how will I

(not) hold you.

Where is the dirt packed in again around us between us obliterating difference

Must one leave off Explain edges

(tongue breaks) (thin fire)
 (in eyes)

And bless. And blame.

(Moonless night.

Vase in the kitchen)


Explain duty to remain to the end. 

Duty not to run away from the good. 

The good.

(Beauty is not an issue.) 

A wise man wants? 

A master.


Oh my beloved I speak of the absolute jewels.

Dwelling in place for example.

In fluted listenings.

In panting waters human-skinned to the horizon.

Muzzled the deep.

Fermenting the surface.

Wrecks left at the bottom, yes.

Space birdless. 

Light on it a woman on her knees-her having kneeled everywhere 

God's laughter unquenchable.

Back there its river ripped into pieces, length gone, buried in parts, in 

Believe me I speak now for the sand.

Here at the front end, the narrator.

At the front end, the meanwhile: God's laughter.

Are you still waiting for the true story? (God's laughter)

The difference between what is and could be? (God's laughter) 

In this dance the people do not move.

Deferred defied obstructed hungry, 

organized around a radiant absence. 

In His dance the people do not move.

by Jorie Graham |


 I watched them once, at dusk, on television, run,
in our motel room half-way through
Nebraska, quick, glittering, past beauty, past
the importance of beauty.,
not even hungry, not even endangered, driving deeper and deeper
into less. They leapt up falls, ladders,
and rock, tearing and leaping, a gold river,
and a blue river traveling
in opposite directions.
They would not stop, resolution of will
and helplessness, as the eye
is helpless
when the image forms itself, upside-down, backward,
driving up into
the mind, and the world
unfastens itself
from the deep ocean of the given. . .Justice, aspen
leaves, mother attempting
suicide, the white night-flying moth
the ants dismantled bit by bit and carried in
right through the crack
in my wall. . . .How helpless
the still pool is,
awaiting the gold blade
of their hurry. Once, indoors, a child,
I watched, at noon, through slatted wooden blinds,
a man and woman, naked, eyes closed,
climb onto each other,
on the terrace floor,
and ride--two gold currents
wrapping round and round each other, fastening,
unfastening. I hardly knew
what I saw. Whatever shadow there was in that world
it was the one each cast
onto the other,
the thin black seam
they seemed to be trying to work away
between them. I held my breath.
as far as I could tell, the work they did
with sweat and light
was good. I'd say
they traveled far in opposite
directions. What is the light
at the end of the day, deep, reddish-gold, bathing the walls,
the corridors, light that is no longer light, no longer clarifies,
illuminates, antique, freed from the body of
that air that carries it. What is it
for the space of time
where it is useless, merely
beautiful? When they were done, they made a distance
one from the other
and slept, outstretched,
on the warm tile
of the terrace floor,
smiling, faces pressed against the stone.

by Jorie Graham |

To A Friend Going Blind

 Today, because I couldn't find the shortcut through,
I had to walk this town's entire inner
perimeter to find
where the medieval walls break open
in an eighteenth century
arch. The yellow valley flickered on and off
through cracks and the gaps
for guns. Bruna is teaching me
to cut a pattern.
Saturdays we buy the cloth.
She takes it in her hands
like a good idea, feeling
for texture, grain, the built-in 
limits. It's only as an afterthought she asks
and do you think it's beautiful?
Her measuring tapes hang down, corn-blond and endless,
from her neck.
When I look at her
I think Rapunzel,
how one could climb that measuring,
that love. But I was saying,
I wandered all along the street that hugs the walls,
a needle floating
on its cloth. Once
I shut my eyes and felt my way
along the stone. Outside
is the cashcrop, sunflowers, as far as one can see. Listen,
the wind rattles in them,
a loose worship
seeking an object,
an interruption. Sara,
the walls are beautiful. They block the view.
And it feels rich to be
inside their grasp.
When Bruna finishes her dress
it is the shape of what has come
to rescue her. She puts it on.

by Jorie Graham |

The Way Things Work

 is by admitting 
or opening away. 
This is the simplest form 
of current: Blue 
moving through blue; 
blue through purple; 
the objects of desire 
opening upon themselves 
without us; the objects of faith. 
The way things work 
is by solution, 
resistance lessened or 
increased and taken 
advantage of. 
The way things work 
is that we finally believe 
they are there, 
common and able 
o illustrate themselves. 
Wheel, kinetic flow, 
rising and falling water, 
ingots, levers and keys, 
I believe in you, 
cylinder lock, pully, 
lifting tackle and 
crane lift your small head-- 
I believe in you--
your head is the horizon to
my hand. I believe 
forever in the hooks. 
The way things work 
is that eventually 
something catches.

by Jorie Graham |


 Over a dock railing, I watch the minnows, thousands, swirl
themselves, each a minuscule muscle, but also, without the
way to create current, making of their unison (turning, re-
entering and exiting their own unison in unison) making of themselves a
visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by
minutest fractions the water's downdrafts and upswirls, the
dockside cycles of finally-arriving boat-wakes, there where
they hit deeper resistance, water that seems to burst into
itself (it has those layers) a real current though mostly
invisible sending into the visible (minnows) arrowing
 motion that forces change--
this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by
each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself,
also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something
at sea. Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through
in the wind, I look in and say take this, this is
what I have saved, take this, hurry. And if I listen
now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only
something I did. I could not choose words. I am free to go.
I cannot of course come back. Not to this. Never.
It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.