Jorie Graham

 
 

WE 






lost all the wars. By definition. Had small desires and fundamental fear. Gave our
children for them, paid in full, from the start of time, standard time and standard
space, with and without suspension of disbelief, hungry for the everyday, wide
awake, able to bring about a state of affairs by bodily movement, not even gradually,
not hesitating, not ever, gave brothers fathers sisters mothers. Lost every war.
Will lose the ones to come. By definition. That woman. That
ocean. Careful how you fool around. There is form and it knows the difference. Go
alone. Hold back. Transfigure. Promise. Go alone. Transfigure. Keep promise. All this
is what the wind knows. It has never lost a war. Has a notion to be almost
wordless. Has need. But not like ours. No sir it knows acceptance—strange isn’t
it—so does the stream—it has a hillside—knows acquiescence—does not lose,
has no lips, does not love, does not carry on—or maybe it does, yes—but not as we
do—no generations, no forgetting—no eyes desiring what they see too
much—the blossom—the bluebird—the crease in the hillside—no too much, no
thankfulness, nothing to do, or that has to be done, nothing to forget—please let me
forget—I did not do that—it could not have been me—where shall I hide now—I
shall be found—no one can find them, the stream, the bones in the culvert,
the pigeons hovering near the steam shaft—no one can find them they need not
hide—the stones, the steel, the galaxies—shrinking or in-
                                                                                             creasing, no war—
nothing—nothing can see itself—nothing can think—there is no prevailing—nor
lack—just as it should be—death yes but as a gathering, energy done—not a lost
war—just a merging with what comes—with what has come before—it does not
turn around—it is not looking over its shoulder—nerveless—were we needed—as
wind was—lost all wars—even the one with time—all of the time—all of the


times. Looked for all the intersections. Time and fiction. Asked can it be

true? Time and history. Asked can it really be true? This is happening. But is

not what the real feels like. The past? Is senseless. Collapse the it-has-been

says the wind. Look but not back. Any wind will tell you. You have not been there.

In the strictest sense. Are on display. There is no private space. Nothing is taking

place. It will not stick. Also

                                             what more shall we do to others. To otherness. No,

to others. We are in some strange wind says the wind. Are in the enigma of

pastness. It is shedding its aircraft, its radar, it has its back against a

bodiless sorrow, the bodies are all gone from it, the purchases have all been made,

it is so extreme this taking-the-place-of, this standing-in-for, this disappearing of all

the witnesses—this is inconceivable—conceive it—the floating faces which carried

themselves as bodies through all the eras—they say nothing—nothing

that you will ever see—you are so blind—in each instant blind—the problem is

insoluble—also senseless—there is no real to which you can refer—and yet the

bodies are all in it—whatever remains—the observable witnesses to the past—this

debt—the relation of this to absolute silence—listen—it is absolutely silent back


there—from here nothing ever is to have happened—no one made you—the
streets the imperial cities the cord from father to daughter certain butterflies
certain kinds of armor plate the great highways the grease the model sitting for the
sculptor the woman she is the clay she is the destinations of the steel and oil, the
signatures, the millions of signatories to the past, the launching and relaunching of
boys men ships craft from land to sea from sea to land to air to sea to land the birds
the hidden fox the rabbits in the field as the highway is being cut the deer going
deeper into the brush the pyramids the broken columns the mice that have dug a
nest beneath—oh analogy–apprehension strikes me vastly down—we are way
past
          intimation friend—the pastness of→you can only think about it→it won’t
be there for you→you can talk about it→they are gone who came before→left us
nothing but ourselves→on our tiny axis of blood→surrounded by all the broken
columns→the marble which will itself surrender→to time→to radioactivity→to
→we are all we ever were→necessary because of breeding→weak→dying→and
then there are clocks→butterflies cyclamens geometrical patterns lacerations of
space where galaxies grow→a bottle of whiskey deep in the soil no one found→it
descended→cloth with serial numbers→one says made in the USA→underneath
death it says made in→where shall we put the theory of reading→there never was
metaphor→action unfolded in no temporality→anticipation floods us but we
never were able–not for one instant–to inhabit time→listen→the last step is this
feeling you have here→just as long as we keep doing this→I write you read→a
with-time-ness→an unexpected nobility→above and below flow by, cold as they
are→the universals keep→solar ghosts flare→turn to cash→on this small fire the
earth keep reading→I say to myself keep on→it will not be the end→not yet→my
children sleep→not yet→a friend who’s dead said this to me→it is not dead→

 
 

The Post Human






Standing next to your body you have just gone.
How much of you has gone has it all gone all
                                        at once.
It has been just a minute now—I don't want the time to go in this direction—it does.
Now it has been two. Elsewhere. Elsewhere someone gets on a train—
we're almost there, a man says to a child,
prepare for landing, the fields are rushing towards us,
we are setting out with the picnic, the woods seem far but we have all day...
Standing next to you, holding the hand which stiffens, am I
outside of it more than before, are you not inside?
The aluminum shines on your bedrail where the sun hits. It touches it.
The sun and the bedrail—do they touch each other more than you and I now.
Now. Is that a place now. Do you have a now.
The day stands outside all around as if it were a creature. It is natural. Am I to think
                                                                                                          you now
natural? Earlier, is it an hour ago, you sat up briefly looked
out. Said nothing but I looked at your eyes and saw them see. You saw
the huckleberry, the plume of rose, the silver morning grow as if skinning night,
that animal, till day came out raw and bleeding.
Daybreak mended it for now. I saw you see the jay drop
into the clearing light, light arrive, direction assert itself for you—what for—but yes
that is East, with its slow grace. The jet went by way overhead. 
Shade one more time under the tree you love. Shadow then shade. 
Its body like a speech the tree was finally able to make, coming free of night.
A statement. Which would evolve as it grew to
know—[you passed in here] [you left] ["you"—what did your you do?]—the bush, the
bird, hills, the hundreds of branches like snakes, top and bottom
making their event—the unbleaching from dawn to the rich interweaving
                                                                                   knowledges of
the collapse of knowledge
which is day.
Saw you sit up and look out. Just like that. Information is our bread and butter
is what you loved to say. We each have a thing we loved
to say, I think. How many minutes have passed now. Have we caught up yet with
                                                                                   where we just
were? There are so many copies of this minute. 
Not endless but there sure are a lot
from when I started, going through my motions, part of
history—or, no, cup in hand, end at hand, trying to hide from the
final ampersand. Where are you going, where out there, the wrong part of me now
                                                                                   wants to
ask. And turns around and says, cue consequence, cue
occasion. There on the bed just now—(look, all of a sudden now I cannot write "your"
bed)—I watch your afterlife begin to
burn. Helpful. Making a space we had not used
before, could not. Undimmed, unconsumed. In it this daylight burns. 

 
 

Deep Water Trawling





 

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. How deep is the sea. You couldn’t go down

there. Pressure would crush you. Light disappears at 6000 feet. Ask

another question: Can you hear me? No. Who are you. I am.

Did you ever kill a fish. I was once but now I am

human. I have imagination. I want to love. I have self-interest. Things

are not me. Do you have another question. I am haunted but by what?

Human supremacy? The work of humiliation. The pungency of the pesticide.

What else? The hammer that comes down on the head. Knocks the eyes out.

I was very lucky. The end of the world had already occurred. How long ago

was that. I don’t know. It is not a function of knowledge. It is in a special sense

that the world ends. You have to keep living. You have to make it not become

waiting. Nothing is disturbingly visible. Only the outside continues but it

continues. So you have to find the way to make the inside

continue. Your entity is fragile. You are an object you own. At least

you were given it to own. You have to figure out what ownership

is. You thought you knew. You were wrong. It was wrong. There was

wrongness in the mix. It turns out you are a first impression. Years go

by. Imagine that. And there is still a speaker. There will always be a speaker. In the

hypoxic zones is almost no more oxygen→then there is→no more→oxygen→for real→
picture that says the speaker→who are you→where are you→going down into the dead
zones→water not water→the deeper you go he says the→scarier it gets→because
there’s→nothing there→there are no→fish→no organisms→alive→no→no life→so it’s just
us→dead zones→bigger than the Sahara he says→the largest lifeless spaces this side of the
moon→he says→she says→who is this speaking to me→I am the upwelling→I am the
disappearing→hold on→just a minute please→hold on→there is a call for you

 
 

Vigil






Again through the haze the dog awakens me. It stands and breathes and makes me
look. Embroidered night. Pelt-skin and pushing nose.
Is it come this time. Gaze looking hard at something which is me. Comes into here
these nights handing me nothing but
this gaze—you, you—and again now it
insists—looks hard then looks
away. Leery but intimate. Thinks like a
shovel, digs. Spotted torso. Never forgets anything. Says this is how the
burning of being feels—nothing—something of moths beating trapped wings in the
air—air spotted too—air saying I am still here or it is or she
                                                                             is—dog
nudges hard, refusing delay—has no whim—knows not
the is-it-worth-it thought, nor decision, nor indecision,
has no self in mirror, sleeps through din then without lifting heavy head watches us
lose reason, lose by reason. Then sleeps again. Hears reasoning resume. Like clotting of
blood. What do we need? Would you bring me some now I think, it is more now we need—
                                                                             then there will just be all the
rest—but this version, this which is the only
version, this is where pretending (even if you’re not pretending) ends. Just like
that. No extra time to make up later. No later. It’s watching me now. It knows how to do the
                                                                             only thing
as if it were the only right thing. I put my hand on my face. Feel my face. Feel
vertigo, the shut drawer of pennies, everything helping itself to
                                                                             itself—ash and furies and freckled
                                                                             splotches of oncoming
dawn. Are you ready? You can only consent now. Anything postponed? Anything you planned
to say, do, think, breed, recall, ask forgiveness for—what
happens to the room afterwards? The angle of the light
matters now but in a few hours to whom will it
matter so? And the hornet next we doused but which still hums holding dawn wind?
I get up again to follow him. Up through one more night’s calamity—no, how can it be
                                                                             if you still
breathe in it—feel nighttime sizzle with your breath now rough now soft pouring out
into it—feel breath rippling round your hunched-up self, your almost completely broken
self, feel night to be the mechanism entirely built to proffer the inhale,
recover the exhale—listen—night grabs my
breaths too—pushed this inhale in as if to make it
sleek and tight as it flows through my only
citadel. I’m going to whip right through you it up-
wells, am going to ram forth into all your openings this fine electro-
magnetism, want to ship up, snap up, gut in, gutter through
every bit of you with minutes more minutes. Afterwards
                                                                             this air
                                                                             shall hold no more minutes of
yours, will be all flow, cluster, possibility, speed—stirred but
not stirred-for—no recurrence then—substanceless—oh—keep it
                                                                             substanced—for now
stay in it. Remain clock. Do not spurn earth. Have mass. Electron, spin. Amaze
air. See day. Look it is coming, wait. Wait for the change. Oh the
change. Spur of leaves shaking wind. Dawn wind. Wind of differential. Mother.
                                                                             Be apparent. Be appareled with
self still. What does it know this creature. Because it
knows. I look at its eyes but it does not look at me. It never
does. I look in there. Tell me.
Now down the hallway and open the door. You there
in dawnlight in sheets. Are those still sheets. I squint. I make no
breath—hear wind whirl-up the valley out there over trees. Soft
windowpane. Is it now. Hand on the knob I watch the
                                                                             surface of the sheet
as one listens to the seashell for far distances, waiting for the long
lament, some blush of air, an ancient boundless
                                                                             seeking seeking
                                                                             deliverance—but
the small mound moves, and the humble rise and fall beauties itself
up, and it is like light suddenly speckling shadows and motions on a brick wall
which had been till then reduced to grid, everywhere grid,
and you have not died. Strange and familiar your stillness.
Maybe you are dreaming? Sunrise is
touching the stillness which was night’s trees. A light wind
rises. The window pales and fills with things.
I am afraid. I look at the pod’s castanets, the sky full of red
shot. Again the dog goes over to your side and settles close. He knows.
Like wheat collapsing onto the threshing floor he sees
how much is left in the gripped hand to spill. A creature that knows joy knows
death. They bind each day in chains at the end. Daylight shows it.
It pierces us with its red spear. It widens.
Oh you out there—run, it is day, run everywhere—
rise fall sink breathe—open up—happen.

 
 

Jorie Graham is the author of fourteen collections of poems. Her poetry has been widely translated and has been the recipient of numerous awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize, the Forward Prize (UK), the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and the International Nonino Prize. She lives in Massachusetts and teaches at Harvard University.