Four Poems

Jorie Graham

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.
Glassy meanwhile the frontmost arrivals, their sheets filling momentarily with sky, with
clouds fully formed (in which gulls [of sand] glide) even as they all
are drawn back
into the ruffling front-thunder
into which direct backmotion
feeds – is fed – (over which real rows of low-flying pelicans) –
(backmotion into which retreat itself feeds, slides, you’d have to say dissolves) –
(though strangely nothing of the sea dissolves).
Behind: the crystalline green risings of just-before furling,
then the furling. Between: the wild-carrot lacings and
spume of
breakages the eye hardly caught. Lifting the eyes away one sees
in the near/far distance large upwallings
in which sometimes fish calmly ride sideways
above one,
high above, while close-up, the sky unfolds, deep, here, at our
feet –
(the eyes look down to see up) – (then, squinting, out, to see
the see-through slow uprising
holding its school). The mind doesn’t
want it to break – unease where the heart pushes out – the mind
wants only to keep it coming, yes, sun making the not-yet-breaking crest
so gold where the
pelicans turn as they glide – flapping then gliding –
as long as possible without too much dropping –
here and there trying to stay with the just-breaking ridge,
turning towards or away from the
watching-eye
to origami trick, artichoke wing – sheen – crank – beaks dragging the
gold-fringed, gathered garment-furl through which
the fish themselves drive (thread)
the only momentarily unbreaking line. And how there is always something
else. Up close four different brown retreating furls just now [being forced
to forward-break] re-
entering themselves. Each tripping over each as they are also forced
into retreat.
What is force? My love is forced from me as in retreat
from love. My gaze is forced back into me as it retreats
from thought. Sometimes the whole unravelling activity
for just an instant
pools, all its opposing motions suddenly just pattern on these briefly
lakelike flats – the shore’s upslant unspooling then in only two
dimensions – (close your eyes) –
(although it’s only when you open them you hear the seven
kinds of
sound: hiss-flattenings and poolings-out [sand-suctions in the
flat],
the pebbled wordlike pulling down and rolling up, the small
hush of the small first-line of white, it lowering its
voice as it proceeds
to crash, the crash where the larger one behind is hit and hits
the one of yet more force
behind it now, the singleness – (the one loud
thunder-break) – the backmost individual wave,
the lowering and sudden softening of all betweens [of which
every few minutes one] out of which the first crash
yet again can rise. Also the momentary lull: which now lets in
the sound of distance in itself: where your eye might
look up, further out: to where, it seems,
nothing but steady forward progress in its perfect
time occurs: onward, onward: tiny patterns which
seen from above, must: it is imagined: perfectly: shine).

Ebbtide

I am a frequency, current flies through. One has
to ride
the spine.
No piece [of mind] [of heart], among the other
frequencies. How often and how hard are answerings.
The surf, receding, leaves successive
hemline trims of barely raised institching sand –
bridal-wreath puckerings –
glassy (this side), packed smooth (that).
Making one’s way one sees the changes.
What took place before one
looked.
Snakeskin of darker sands in with the light.
Slightly more raised and wider alligator skins.
Crabtracks’ wild unfocusings around firm holes.
The single tubefish, dead, long as a snake, half snout,
rolled over and over as the waves pick up, return, return
less often, go away. For a while he is incandescent
white, then blue, deep green, then white again, until he’s
left, half-turned,
eyes sandy till one wave, come back
this far as if in error, cleans him off.
Greenish with rising/falling weed-debris, shore mist
fingering long streaks of sun.
Graphed beachlength on the scallop-edged lapping retreat:
christmas-ornament red shrimp
punctually all along the highs of each
upskirting arc – prongs upright,
stiff. Swift ticks of sunlight count them
out.
Who has enough? A little distance
back
two vultures feeding on a pelican. Later, claws and beak
float in the brack. Foam-bits lace-up the edge
of the retreat. Something feels like it’s not
coming back. In the tidepool
sand-grains advance along a long
walled avenue, in ranks – at the conjunction of
two rocks, algae
signaling the entry point – (swarming but
swaying in
unison, without advancing) (waiting for
some arrival)
(the channel of them quickening) (the large espousal) (light
beginning now to touch what had been only
underwater story) –
until the gleaming flow of particles is finally
set down, is
stilled: the grains
drop down and mat, silt in, begin to dry: the wandering tribe is
gone, the
city’s gone, the waiting gone. The individual grains
are not discernible. I’m squatting so I hear
sand sucking water in. Gravity. Glistening.
I take a stick and run it through
the corridor of wilderness.
It fills a bit with water the first time. Is self-erased.
The second time it does not fill. It leaves a
mark where
my stick ran. I make
another (cursive) mark. How easily it bends to cursive, snakes towards
thought.
Looking back
I see the birds eating the bird. The other way my
gaze can barely reach shore-break.
The (little) weight of the stick in my hand. The meditation
place demands. My frequency. This hand, this
sugar-stalk. The canefields in the back of us,
the length of tubefish back there too. And
if I write my name. And how mist rounds the headland
till the sea
is gone. One feels word should be sent us
from some source. It is all
roar and cry and suck and snap. The pebbles on the
pebbles roll. One feels one has in custody
what one cannot care for for long. Too much is
asked. Nothing is coming back the way it was.
But one can wait for the next hem, next bride,
next oscillation, comedy. Done, the birds fly
off. I can see through the trees,
through the cane grove, palm grove, out far enough into
the clearing where
the spine of the picked-clean story shines.

Evolution

One’s nakedness is very slow.
One calls to it, one wastes one’s sympathy.
Comparison, too, is very slow.
Where is the past?
I sense that we should keep this coming.
Something like joy rivulets along the sand.
I insists that we ‘go in’. We go in.
One cannot keep all of it. What is enough
of it. And keep? – I am being swept away –
what is keep? A waking good.
Visibility blocking the view.
Although we associate the manifest with kindness,
we do. The way it goes where it goes, slight downslope,
like the word ‘suddenly’, the incline it causes.
Also the eye’s wild joy sucked down the slope the minutes wave
by wave
pack down and slick.
The journey – some journey – visits one.
The journey – some journey – visits me.
Then this downslope once again.
And how it makes what happens
always more heavily
laden, this self only able to sink (albeit also
lifting as in a
sudden draught) into the future. Our future. Where everyone
is patient.
Where all the sentences come to complete themselves.
Where what wants to be human still won’t show
its face.

Where the Person

The background, as the car with its music begins
to recede, first reasserting itself through an increasingly un-
differentiated
tick and boom – the baseline’s disappearance like one you once loved, one
still waving, you squinting, trying to both see and remember –
an urge once ‘everything’ subduing now, down to small-talk, a little chat,
dried flowers staring from a shiny bowl –
then, all round them, increasing: ‘considerable’ distance: the sense of a stranger now
off to
some other business – him too now waving – his back the only part you
understand, a stranger’s back, receding, of
a certain size, yes, a semi-darkening object, an object of
attention, human. Oh lord what is it. A tent flap falls. Note
is taken, then note no longer taken, then (what shall we call it) (history) the
massive chitter coming on – (singleness now truly gone) – massive and
more or less (to the human ear) the same pitch and
duration, only this time a serious
proposal, meaning to stick – formal, ruthless, kind, strange, flaring –
then suddenly crawling maggotlike around
a single hammering-sound – succession, more succession – our listening
replacing almost all the silence now, unaware of
division, past differentiation, no single
object but the hammer in the sun behind the fence,
tappings hardening and softening and always
full hits, after which silence tumbling down as if a birdsong without
song, a mind of space making of itself a wide existence,
nothing else. Wind silks the fronds. They move
their rippling under the harshness of the festival.
Everything seems easily born. All without echo. No souvenir.
Hands everywhere full of nothing, yet very full.
Hard prize feeling hard won out to the very edges of the visible –
full sun – (a buzzsaw now, just once, then once
again – its rise, quick fall, pushed deep into the chittering –
and then again the chittering poured into seepages and leaks),
(one gust of wind right into it),
(pushing up around the buzz and filling in
each emptiness).
Elsewhere things stop. Elsewhere
there is direction and things go along it and then stop.
Elsewhere motions towards good, or depth, or
elsewhere’s elsewhere. Here in the hive of sun,
only the toothy present moment lives. Widening its grin.
A broom sweeps off the concrete ledge.
Two phrases spoken by the sweeper as she turns
her head.
Listen: in between the words, the sweep,
the strands’ accumulating hiss, the water dripping from the
upheld hose, low pressure of the water’s fall,
the mingling of the yellow and the yellowest: a power, a blind and un-
important
power, but, because capable of being all,
still a heroic power. Even un-
vectored, even untrue.