Embodies

Jorie Graham - 1950-
Deep autumn & the mistake occurs, the plum tree blossoms, twelve
                                                         blossoms on three different
branches, which for us, personally, means none this coming spring or perhaps none on
                                                         just those branches on which
                                                         just now
lands, suddenly, a grey-gold migratory bird—still here?—crisping, 
                                                         multiplying the wrong
                                                         air, shifting branches with small
hops, then stilling—very still—breathing into this oxygen which also pockets my
                                                         looking hard, just
                                                         that, takes it in, also my
                                                         thinking which I try to seal off, 
my humanity, I was not a mistake is what my humanity thinks, I cannot
                                                         go somewhere
else than this body, the afterwards of each of these instants is just
                                                         another instant, breathe, breathe, 
my cells reach out, I multiply on the face of
                                                         the earth, on the
mud—I can see my prints on the sweet bluish mud—where I was just
                                                         standing and reaching to see if
those really were blossoms, I thought perhaps paper
                                                         from wind, & the sadness in
me is that of forced parting, as when I loved a personal
                                                         love, which now seems unthinkable, & I look at 
the gate, how open it is, 
                                                         in it the very fact of God as
invention seems to sit, fast, as in its saddle, so comfortable—& where
                                                         does the road out of it
go—& are those torn wires hanging from the limbs—& the voice I heard once after I passed
                                                         what I thought was a sleeping
man, the curse muttered out, & the cage after they have let
                                                         the creatures
out, they are elsewhere, in one of the other rings, the ring with the empty cage is
                                                         gleaming, the cage is
to be looked at, grieving, for nothing, your pilgrimage ends here, 
                                                         we are islands, we
                                                         should beget nothing &
what am I to do with my imagination—& the person in me trembles—& there is still
                                                         innocence, it is starting up somewhere
even now, and the strange swelling of the so-called Milky Way, and the sound of the
                                                         wings of the bird as it lifts off
suddenly, & how it is going somewhere precise, & that precision, & how I no longer
                                                         can say for sure that it
knows nothing, flaming, razory, the feathered serpent I saw as a child, of stone, &
                                                         how it stares back at me
from the height of its pyramid, & the blood flowing from the sacrifice, & the oracles
                                                         dragging hooks through the hearts in
                                                         order to say
what is coming, what is true, & all the blood, millennia, drained to stave off
                                                         the future, stave off, 
& the armies on the far plains, the gleam off their armor now in this bird's
                                                         eye, as it flies towards me
then over, & the sound of the thousands of men assembled at
                                                         all cost now
the sound of the bird lifting, thick, rustling where it flies over—only see, it is
                                                         a hawk after all, I had not seen
clearly, it has gone to hunt in the next field, & the chlorophyll is
                                                         coursing, & the sun is
sucked in, & the chief priest walks away now where what remains of
                                                         the body is left
as is customary for the local birds.  

More 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.

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.

Spoken From the Hedgerows

To bring back a time and place.
A feeling. As in "we are all in this
together." Or "the United States and her allies

fought for Freedom." To bring back.
The experience of killing and getting killed.
Get missed. Get hit. Sun—is it with us. Holiday,

are you with us on this beach today.
Hemisphere of one, my soul, paratrooper,
greatness I house in my body, deepset, my

hands on these triggers—who once could outrun
his brother—consumed with fellow-feeling like a madness that does not
                                                           must not,
lower its pitch—going to the meeting place,

the spire of the church in Vierville, seen on aerial maps, visible from
                                                  eighteen miles out,
if it weren't for fog, and smoke, and groundmist,
the meeting place, the appointed time surging in me,

needing to be pierced—but not me—not me—

only those to the left and right of me—

permit me to let you see me—

Me. Driven half mad but still in biography.
By the shared misery of. Hatred. Training. Trust. Fear.
Listening to the chatter each night of those who survived the day.

There is no other human relationship like it.
At its heart comradeship is an ecstasy.
You will die for an other. You will not consider it a personal

loss. Private Kurt Gabel, 513 Parachute Infantry Regiment—
"The three of us Jake, Joe and I became an entity.
An entity—never to be relinquished, never to be

repeated. An entity is where a man literally insists
on going hungry for another. A man insists on dying for
an other. Protect. Bail out. No regard to

consequence. A mystical concoction." A last piece
of bread. And gladly. You must understand what is meant by
gladly. All armies throughout history have tried

to create this bond among their men. Few succeeded as well
as  the paratroop infantry of the U.S. Army,
Rifle Company E, 506th.

Fussell: It can't happen to me. It can happen to me. It is
going to happen to me. Nothing
is going to prevent it.

Webster (to his parents): I am living on borrowed time—
I do not think I shall live through the next jump.
If I don't come back, try not to take it too hard.

I wish I could persuade you to regard  death
as casually as we do over here. In the heat of it
you expect it, you are expecting it, you are not surprised

by anything anymore, not surprised when your friend
is machine-gunned in the face. It's not like your life, at home,
where death is so unexpected. (And to mother):

would you prefer for someone else's son to die in the mud?
And there is no way out short of the end of war or the loss
of limb. Any other wound is patched up and you're sent back

to the front. This wound which almost killed him
healed up as well and he went back.
He never volunteered. One cannot volunteer.

If death comes, friend, let it come quick.
And don't play the hero, there is no past or future. Don't play
the hero. Ok. Let's go. Move out. Say goodbye.