In the latest issue:

Boris Johnson’s First Year

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: In the Bunker

Thomas Jones

Theban Power

James Romm

What can the WHO do?

James Meek

At the Type Archive

Alice Spawls

Where the Poor Lived

Alison Light

At the Movies: ‘Da 5 Bloods’

Michael Wood

Cultural Pillaging

Neal Ascherson

Jenny Offill

Adam Mars-Jones

Shakespeare v. the English

Michael Dobson

Poem: ‘Now Is the Cool of the Day’

Maureen N. McLane

Tativille

David Trotter

Consider the Hare

Katherine Rundell

How Should I Refer to You?

Amia Srinivasan

Poem: ‘Field Crickets (Gryllus campestris)’

Fiona Benson

Diary: In Mali

Rahmane Idrissa

Two PoemsJorie Graham
Close
Close

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.

This

Full moon, & the empty tree’s branches – correction – the tree’s
branches,
expose and recover it, suddenly, letting it drift and rise a bit then
swathing it again,
treating it like it was stuff, no treasure up there growing more
bluish and ablaze,
as the wind trussles the wide tall limbs in-
telligently
in its nervous ceaselessness – of this minute, of that minute –
All the
light there is playing these limbs like strings until you can
hear the
icy offering of winter which is wind in trees blocking and
revealing moon and it’s
cold &
in the house someone is
sending instructions. Someone thinks death can be
fixed.
Inside it is magic, footprints are never made
visible. The moon slicks along this human coming and
going with no prints to it. The moon there
all over the idea that this ‘all’
could be (and no one would mind) a
game. Noise, priests, provinces, zip codes
coil up out of the grasses
towards it. Groups
seize power. Honour exists. Just punishment exists. The sound of
servants not being
set free. Being told it is postponed again. Hope as it
exists in them
now. Those that were once living how they are not
here in this
moonlight, & how there are things one feels instantly
ashamed about in it, & also, looking at it,
the feeling of a mother tongue in the mouth – & how you can, looking away,
make those trees lean, silvered, against
the idea of the universal – really lean – their tips trying to
scratch at it –
Until it sizzles in one: how one could once give birth, that’s what the shine
says, and that distant countries
don’t exist, enemies do, and as for the great mantle of
individuality (gleaming) &
innocence & fortune – look up: the torturer yawns waiting for his day to be
done – he leans against
the trees for a rest, the implement shines, he looks up.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences