Just Before

Jorie Graham - 1950-
At some point in the day, as such, there was a pool.  Of
                                                         stillness.  One bent to brush one's hair, and, lifting
                                                         again, there it was, the
opening—one glanced away from a mirror, and there, before one's glance reached the
                                                         street, it was, dilation and breath—a name called out
                                                         in another's yard—a breeze from
                                                         where—the log collapsing inward of a sudden into its
                                                         hearth—it burning further, feathery—you hear it but you don't 
                                                         look up—yet there it
                                                         bloomed—an un-
learning—all byway no birthpain—dew—sand falling onto sand—a threat
                                                         from which you shall have
                                                         no reprieve—then the
reprieve—Some felt it was freedom, or a split-second of unearthliness—but no, it was far from un-
                                                         earthly, it was full of
                                                         earth, at first casually full, for some millennia, then
despertately full—of earth—of copper mines and thick under-leaf-vein sucking in of 
                                                         light, and isinglass, and dusty heat—wood-rings
                                                         bloating their tree-cells with more
life—and grass and weed and tree intermingling in the
                                                         undersoil—& the
                                                         earth's whole body round
                                                         filled with
                                                         uninterrupted continents of
                                                         burrowing—&earthwide miles of
                                                         tunnelling by the  
mole, bark bettle, snail, spider, worm—& ants making their cross-
                                                         nationstate cloths of
                                                         soil, & planetwide the
                                                         chewing of insect upon leaf—fish-mouth on krill, 
                                                         the spinning of
coral, sponge, cocoon—this is what entered the pool of stopped thought—a chain suspended in
                                                         the air of which
                                                         one link
                                                         for just an instant
                                                         turned to thought, then time, then heavy time, then
                                                         suddenly
air—a link of air!—& there was no standing army anywhere, 
                                                         & the sleeping bodies in the doorways in all
                                                         the cities of
                                                         what was then just
                                                         planet earth
were lifted up out of their sleeping
                                                         bags, & they walked
                                                         away, & the sensation of empire blew off the link
like pollen—just like that—off it went—into thin air—& the athletes running their 
                                                         games in Delphi entered the zone in the
long oval of the arena where you run in
                                                         shadow, where the killer crowd becomes
                                                         one sizzling hiss, where, 
coming round that curve the slowness
                                                         happens, & it all goes
                                                         inaudible, & the fatigue the urgent sprint the lust
                                                         makes the you
fantastically alone, & the bees thrum the hillsides, & all the blood that has been
                                                         wasted—all of it—gathers into deep coherent veins in the
                                                         earth
                                                         and calls itself
                                                         history—& we make it make
                                                         sense—
                                                         & we are asked to call it
                                                         good.  

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.

Nearing Dawn

Sunbreak.  The sky opens its magazine.  If you look hard
                                                         it is a process of falling
                                                         and squinting—& you are in-
terrupted again and again by change, & crouchings out there
                                                         where you are told each second you
                                                         are only visiting, & the secret
                                                         whitening adds up to no
meaning, no, not for you, wherever the loosening muscle of the night
                                                         startles-open the hundreds of 
                                                         thousands of voice-boxes, into which
your listening moves like an aging dancer still trying to glide—there is time for
                                                         everything, everything, is there is not—
                                                         though the balance is
                                                         difficult, is coming un-
done, & something strays farther from love than we ever imagined, from the long and
                                                         orderly sentence which was a life to us, the dry 
                                                         leaves on
                                                         the fields
through which the new shoots glow
                                                         now also glowing, wet curled tips pointing in any
                                                         direction—
as if the idea of a right one were a terrible forgetting—as one feels upon
                                                         waking—when the dream is cutting loose, is going
                                                         back in the other
direction, deep inside, behind, no, just back—&
                                                         one is left looking out—& it is
breaking open further—what are you to do—how let it fully in—the wideness of it
                                                         is staggering—you have to have more arms eyes a 
                                                         thing deeper than laughter furrows more
capacious than hate forgiveness remembrance forgetfulness history silence
                                                         precision miracle—more
                                                         furrows are needed the field
cannot be crossed this way the
                                                         wide shine coming towards you standing in
the open window now, a dam breaking, reeking rich with the end of
                                                         winter, fantastic weight of loam coming into the
                                                         soul, the door behind you
                                                         shut, the
great sands behind there, pharaohs, the millennia of carefully prepared and buried
                                                         bodies, the ceremony and the weeping for them, all
back there, lamentations, libations, earth full of bodies everywhere, our bodies,
                                                         some still full of incense, & the sweet burnt
                                                         offerings, & the still-rising festival out-cryings—& we will
                                                         inherit
                                                         from it all
nothing—& our ships will still go,
                                                         after the ritual killing to make the wind listen,
out to sea as if they were going to a new place, 
                                                         forgetting they must come home yet again ashamed
no matter where they have been—& always the new brides setting forth—
                                                         & always these ancient veils of their falling from the sky
                                                         all over us, 
& my arms rising from my sides now as if in dictation, & them opening out from me, 
& me now smelling the ravens the blackbirds the small heat of the rot in this largest 
                                                         cage—bars of light crisping its boundaries—
& look
                                                         there is no cover, you cannot reach
it, ever, nor the scent of last night's rain, nor the chainsaw raised to take the first of the 
                                                         far trees
                                                         down, nor the creek's tongued surface, nor the minnow
                                                         turned by the bottom of the current—here
                                                         is an arm outstretched, then here
is rightful day and the arm is still there, outstretched, at the edge of a world—tyrants
                                                         imagined by the bearer of the arm, winds listened for, 
                                                         corpses easily placed anywhere the
                                                         mind wishes—inbox, outbox—machines
                                                         that do not tire in the
distance—barbed wire taking daysheen on—marking the end of the field—the barbs like a 
                                                         lineup drinking itself
                                                         crazy—the wire
                                                         where it is turned round the post standing in for
mental distress—the posts as they start down the next field sorting his from
                                                         mine, his from the
                                                         other's—until you know, following,
following, all the way to the edge and then turning again, then again, to the
                                                         far fields, to the
height of the light—you know
                                                         you have no destiny, no, you have a wild unstoppable 
                                                         rumor for a soul, you
look all the way to the end of
                                                         your gaze, why did you marry, why did you stop to listen,
where are your fingerprints, the mud out there hurrying to 
                                                         the white wood gate, its ruts, the ants in it, your
                                                         imagination of your naked foot placed
there, the thought that in that there
                                                         is all you have & that you have
no rightful way
                                                         to live—