Spoken From the Hedgerows

Jorie Graham - 1950-
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.

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.

Just Before

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.