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Thaw

Jorie Graham, 7 May 2020

... There is a plot in the back of my building.Not the size of the asteroid.Not what fourhyper-crenellations of a reef would have held when there werereefs. It’s still here. I must notget the timeconfused. The times. There is a coolness in it which would have been newSpring. I can’t tell if it’ssmell, as of blossoms which would have been just thenbeginning, or of loam ...

Deep Water Trawling

Jorie Graham, 9 October 2014

... The blades like irises turning very fast to see you completely – steel-blue then red where the cut occurs – the cut of you – they don’t want to know you they want to own you – no – not own – we all mean to live to the end – am I human we don’t know that – just because I have this way of transmitting – call it voice – a threat – communal actually – the pelagic midwater nets like walls closing round us – starting in the far distance where they just look to us like distance – distance coming closer – hear it eliminating background – is all foreground – you in it – the only ground – not even punishment – trawling-nets bycatch poison ghostfishing – the coil of the listening along the very bottom – the nets weighed down with ballast – raking the bottom looking for nothing – indiscriminate – there is nothing in particular you want – you just want – you just want to close the third dimension – to get something which is all – becomes all – once you are indiscriminate – discards can reach 90% of the catch – am I – the habitat crushed and flattened – net of your listening and my speaking we can no longer tell them apart – the atmosphere between us turbid – no place to hide – no place to rest – you need to rest – there is nature it is the rest – what is not hunting is illustration – not regulated are you? – probing down to my greatest depths – 2000 metres and more – despite complete darkness that surrounds me – despite my being in my place under strong pressure – along with all my hundreds of species – detritus – in extreme conditions – deepwater fish grow very slowly – very – so have long life expectancy – late reproductive age – are particularly thus vulnerable – it comes along the floor over the underwater mountains – scraping the steep slopes – what is bycatch – hitting the wrong target – the wrong size – not eaten – for which there is no market – banned – endangered – such as birds – sometimes just too much – no more space on the boat – millions of tons thrown back dead or wounded – the scars on the seabed – the mouth the size of a football field – and if there is no one there there is still ghostfishing – nets abandoned in the sea they continue through the centuries to catch – mammals fish shellfish – we die of exhaustion or suffocation – the synthetic materials last forever Ask us anything ...

Double Helix

Jorie Graham, 26 September 2013

...             One bird close up by the house    crow makes the wall’s temporariness             suddenly exist             one call into the arrival of the storm the announcing by flocks and swarms             the flowerbeds turning in the solar system             listen – Schubert and the thrush at once and             somewhere in space we             hang are hanging             also the red dress on the line I rush to get to in time also the slack in the line up-snapping then down             what scale this pitch-             changing slapping of the cotton-poly blend listen and my approaching arms rising to catch the             ties my hair blowing over it onto it behind us             from the open door the violin and beside us at the edge of the woods the last of the thrush –             can we hear them             these flowerheads being carried in this solar system             sepals receptacles – the vascular bundles inside the stems –             near the blown-open door the strings’ diminuendos –             also these hatchlings in their nest in the eave in the storm born in it wrapping round them thunder twigs bits of mylar dusk             also accuracies of the             built porch of day of the negative forcing, the solar constant, the             storm nonstop though modulating round these             dime-sized heads – in each the magnetic chip and round it the tiny shellfish-crushable skull – Venus is almost big as earth was lush at origin had             oceans imagine yet has no             water anywhere             today ...

Honeycomb

Jorie Graham, 23 January 2014

... Ode to Prism. Aria. Untitled. Wait. I wait. Have you found me yet. Here at my screen,                                                                                   can you make me out? Make me out. All other exits have been sealed. See me or we will both vanish. We need emblematic subjectivities ...

Two Poems

Jorie Graham, 8 March 2007

... Embodies 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 – and where does the road out of it go – & are those torn wires hanging from the limbs – & the voice I heard once after I had 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, and 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, and all the blood, millennia, drained to stave off the future, stave off, and the armies on the far plains, the gleam off their armour 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 ...

WE

Jorie Graham, 8 January 2015

... lost all the wars. By definition. Had small desires and fundamental fear. Gave ourchildren for them, paid in full, from the start of time, standard time and standardspace, with and without suspension of disbelief, hungry for the everyday, wideawake, able to bring about a state of affairs by bodily movement, not even gradually,not hesitating, not ever, gave brothers fathers sisters mothers ...

To 2040

Jorie Graham, 18 March 2021

... With whom am I speaking, are you one or many, what are u, are u, do I make my-self clear, is this which we called speech what u use, are u a living form such as theform I inhabit now letting it speak me. My window tonight casts light onto the snow,I cast from my eye a glance, a touchless touch, tossed out to capture this shine wecast. I pull it in, into my memory store ...

Time Frame

Jorie Graham, 21 April 2022

... The American experiment will end in 2030 she saidlooking into the cards,the charts, the stars, the mathematics of it, lookinginto our palms, into all of ourpalms, into the leaves at thebottom ofthe empty cup – searching its emptiness, its piles of deadbodies or is it grass at the edgeof the field where the abandoned radio is cracklingat the winter-stilled waters, the winter-killedwill of God – in the new world now the old world –staring quietly without emotion into the rotten meatin the abandoned shops, moving aside with one easy gesturethe broken furniture, the fourth wallsmashed& allthe private lives of the highrise apartmentsexposed to the city thenwind ...

Lapse

Jorie Graham, 22 March 2012

... It is entirely in my hands now as it returns like blood to remind me – the chains so soft from wear, in my right, in my left – the first time I, trying for perfection, of balance, of symmetry, strap your twenty-two pounds of eyes, blood, hair, bone – so recently inside me – into the swing – and the sun still in the sky though it being so late as I look up to see where this small package is to go sent up by these two hands into the evening that won’t stop won’t lower as it should into the gloam is it going to last forever, and the grace that I feel at the centre of my palms as if my hands were leaves and light were coursing through some hole in their grasp, the machine of time coming in, as chlorophyll could – I was not yet so tired of believing – I was still in the very beginning of being human, the thing no one can tell another – he didn’t find what he searched for, she didn’t understand what she desired – the style of the story being the very wind which comes up now as I glide down the chains to the canvas bucket to pull you to me, eyes closed as your eyes close, and for the first time in this lifetime lift you back and up as far as I can, as high as I can, then let you collapse so suddenly as I push you away from me, with more force than gravity as I summon from within what I try to feel is an accurate amount, a right fraction, of my strength, not too much promise, not too much greed or ambition or sense of beginning or capacity for dream – no – just the amount to push you by that corresponds to pity, who knows how to calculate that strong firm force, as if I were sending a message forth that has to be delivered and the claimant expects it, one of so many, accompanied by my prayer that you be spared from anything at all, from everything, and of course also its opposite, that everything happen to you in large sheets of experience as I tug back the chain-ends and push you out telling you to put out your legs and pump although you do not know what I am saying as you have not yet spoken your first word, not yet on that day that seems even now it will never end as you come back to me and I catch you and this time of course as I am human I push a little harder as if the news I was shouting-out had not quite been heard, as if the next push were the real one the one that asks for the miracle – will I live or die if I pick this fruit as it is sent back to my waiting hands and this time it’s stronger, the yes is taking over, your yes and my yes and our greed to overcome what, into this first-ever solstice with you in the born world, let no one dare pick this fruit I think as I cast the roundness of you up again now so high into a mouth of sky agape yet without wonder as if it eats everything and anything and does not know what day is or time – this is our time – or that this next-on meal is being fed it, as just under you the oval puddle from the recent rain lies in the worn declivity where each one before you has dug in her feet to push off or to stop – and in it you flash as you go by giving me for that instant an eye you its iris blinking, the crucible of a blink in the large unflinching eye, eye opened by the hundreds of small hopes taking on gravity at push-off, and then the fatigue when for all the pumping and rising, and how you could see over the tops of the houses up and over to where your own house is down there – and the housing development, and the millions of leaves, and the slower children                           lagging behind on the small road beneath – until the world stills, and you alone are life, a huge bloom, a new force entering – how then – even then – the sensation of enough swarms, and thought or something like it, resumes, and your mind is again in your hard grip on the chains which had been until then as if unknown to your body during what might have been the interglacial lull, or the period during which the original ooze grew single-cell organisms, which grew small claws and feet and then had to have eyes, till your hands become again hard, heavy, and all the yearning re-enters you as lifetime, and your feet learn to brake by scratching the ground a bit more each time – and that is where the eye comes from, the final oscillations, the desire to be done with vision, what this morning’s rain reminds us is still there beneath us in an earth that will only swallow us entire no matter what we push into it as here you and I again and again redo the moment nine months ago you first began to push and cry-out into the visible world ...

The Mask Now

Jorie Graham, 3 November 2016

... Dying, Dad wanted sunscreen. Nonstop. Frantic if withheld. Would say screen, and we just did it. Knew he was dying. Was angry. In last weeks wore red sleepmask over eyes day and night. Would ride it up onto his forehead for brief intervals, then down, pulled by hand that still worked. A bit. Sometimes shaking too much so just cried eyes. Cried now now ...

Two Poems

Jorie Graham, 6 January 2005

... Praying (Attempt of 6 June ’03) I wake and one of them is still there, still talking, sudden jolts of hand as if to slap open the air, garbage waiting at the curb, myself a slave, still, yes, I check, a slave, mist on the hedgerows, stubblefields between. A slave. Beyond, the village still asleep. That I can say the word village. Thorns disappearing now under the last of the blossoming ...

Four Poems

Jorie Graham, 5 July 2001

... The Complex Mechanism of the Break From here, ten to fourteen rows of folding and branching. Up close, the laving in overlappings that pool sideways as well as suck back. Filamentary green-trims where the temporary furthest coming-forward is lost. Suctions in three or four different directions back from pinnacle-point. Encounter of back-suck by the foremost, low-breaking, upstitching really, arrivals, where it seems pebblings of sandbits ruffle up and are ruffled back into the foam of the breakwater browning it ...

Charmed Quarantine

James Wood, 21 March 1996

Soul Says: On Recent Poetry 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 266 pp., £15.95, June 1995, 0 674 82146 7
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The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 100 pp., £18.95, January 1996, 0 674 08121 8
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The Given and the Made: Strategies of Poetic Redefinition 
by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 137 pp., £7.99, April 1995, 0 571 17078 1
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... James Merrill, A.R. Ammons, Amy Clampitt, Charles Simic, Dave Smith, Seamus Heaney, Louise Glück, Jorie Graham and Rita Dove. Vendler is in love with the lyric, indeed so in love with it that she befriends strangers who appear to resemble it: in her collection of review-essays, Soul Says, she converts all her chosen subjects into writers of lyric poetry ...

Indigo, Cyanine, Beryl

Helen Vendler: Jorie Graham’s Daring, 23 January 2003

Never 
by Jorie Graham.
Carcanet, 112 pp., £9.95, September 2002, 1 85754 621 0
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... The new volume of poems by my Harvard colleague Jorie Graham, in its US edition, bears on its jacket a detail from Vermeer’s The Astronomer, showing the hand of the astronomer as it touches, almost affectionately, the zodiacal globe it is about to spin. Although the star-gazer cannot make physical contact with his remote field of vision, the caressing way his finger lies on the surface of the globe suggests his intense intimacy with the sky ...

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