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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 line--bodies 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 nimble-fingered 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 crisp, 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 obligation, 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 through, 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 concentrate.
The river still ribboning, twisting up, into its re- arrangements, chill enlightenments, tight-knotted quickenings and loosenings--whispered messages dissolving the messengers-- the river still glinting-up into its handfuls, heapings.
glassy forgettings under the river of my attention-- and the river of my attention laying itself down-- bending, reassembling--over the quick leaving-offs and windy obstacles-- and the surface rippling under the wind's attention-- rippling over the accumulations, the slowed-down drifting permanences of the cold bed.
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
thing?
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 debris 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 place, 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)

  Spring
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 in.
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, exhales: 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 (never).
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 Summer 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) Fall 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.
Winter 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 already.
God's laughter unquenchable.
Back there its river ripped into pieces, length gone, buried in parts, in sand.
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 |

Salmon

 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.
, archaic, 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, upstream, 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 |

Prayer

 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-
 infolding,
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.