Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts

Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts

JORIE GRAHAM
Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 80
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7s3r5
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts
    Book Description:

    "How I would like to catch the world / at pure idea," writes Jorie Graham, for whom a bird may be an alphabet, and flight an arc. Whatever the occasion--and her work offers a rich profusion of them--the poems reach to where possession is not within us, where new names are needed and meaning enlarged. Hence, what she sees reminds her of what is missing, and what she knows suggests what she cannot. From any event, she arcs bravely into the farthest reaches of mind. Fast readers will have trouble, but so what. To the good reader afraid of complexity, I would offer the clear trust that must bond us to such signal poems as (simply to cite three appearing in a row) "Mother's Sewing Box," "For My Father Looking for My Uncle," and "The Chicory Comes Out Late August in Umbria." Finally, the poet's words again: ". . . you get / just what you want" and (just before that), "Just as / from time to time / we need to seize again / the whole language / in search of / better desires."--Marvin Bell

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3144-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. I

    • THE WAY THINGS WORK
      (pp. 3-3)

      is by admitting

      or opening away.

      This is the simplest form

      of current: Blue

      moving through blue;

      blue through purple;

      the objects of desire

      opening upon themselves

      without us;

      the objects of faith.

      The way things work

      is by solution,

      resistance lessened or

      increased and taken

      advantage of.

      The way things work

      is that we finally believe

      they are there,

      common and able

      to illustrate themselves.

      Wheel, kinetic flow,

      rising and falling water,

      ingots, levers and keys,

      I believe in you,

      cylinder lock, pully,

      lifting tackle and

      Crane lift your small head—

      I believe in you—

      your head is the...

    • I WAS TAUGHT THREE
      (pp. 4-5)

      names for the tree facing my window

      almost within reach, elastic

      with squirrels, memory banks, homes.

      Castagnotook itself to heart, its pods

      like urchins clung to where they landed

      claiming every bit of shadow

      at the hem.Chassagne, on windier days,

      nervous in taffeta gowns,

      whispering, on the verge of being

      anarchic, though well bred.

      And thenchestnut, whipped pale and clean

      by all the inner reservoirs

      called upon to do their even share of work.

      It was not the kind of tree

      got at by default—imagine that—not one

      in which only the remaining leaf

      was loyal....

    • WHORE’S BATH
      (pp. 6-6)

      But the water will not undress me, and where its coins on my body

      accumulate,

      the sun builds its church, the soap its greenhouse.

      They need remain empty.

      Oh when will the whole become a permanent mirage?

      Kneeling, I

      can go abroad into my face, making both—the real and its proof—

      disappear. What a fabric!

      Yet what can it fashion, spirit unfastened to reveal

      the blackest of urchins losing itself in its love of knots.

      Lifting the pan, whitewater starts at the nape and disappears

      into the waistline

      absolving

      each robing of skin

      like the brazen descents of continents...

    • AMBERGRIS
      (pp. 7-7)

      Because our skin is the full landscape, an ocean,

      we must be unforgettable or not at all.

      Squids that are never seen alive surface

      to follow the moonlight on the water—anything

      that flees so constantly must be desirable.

      In doing so they run aground or are caught

      by their enemy the whale. Sometimes fishermen

      hang paper lanterns on the prows of skiffs

      and row backwards towards land. It takes

      such a long time to believe

      in evidence.

      Consider the broken moon over the waves,

      the missing scent of moonlight

      on salt water—eventually

      pattern emerges. The giant squid

      is...

    • TENNESSEE JUNE
      (pp. 8-8)

      This is the heat that seeks the flaw in everything

      and loves the flaw.

      Nothing is heavier than its spirit,

      nothing more landlocked than the body within it.

      Its daylilies grow overnight, our lawns

      bare, then falsely gay, then bare again. Imagine

      your mind wandering without its logic,

      your body the sides of a riverbed giving in . . .

      In it, no world can survive

      having more than its neighbors;

      in it, the pressure to become forever less is the pressure

      to take forevermore

      to get there. Oh

      let it touch you . . .

      The porch is sharply...

    • HYBRIDS OF PLANTS AND OF GHOSTS
      (pp. 9-9)

      I understand that it is grafting,

      this partnership of lost wills, common flowers.

      That only perfection can be kept, not

      its perfect instances. Snap-

      dragon what can I expect of you,

      dress of the occasion?

      So I am camouflaged,

      so the handsome bones make me invisible.

      It is useless. Randomness,

      the one lost handkerchief at my heart,

      is the one I dropped and know

      to look for. Indeed, clues,

      how partial I am to bleeding hues,

      to clustering. Almond,

      stone fruit,

      you would be a peach, an apricot—

      but see how close you can come without

      already being there, the...

    • ANGELS FOR CÉZANNE
      (pp. 10-10)

      The almost invisible

      shuttlecock at dusk

      floats over the fine net,

      coming to bloom in

      the empty gardenia bush.

      Not because happiness

      exists, but because

      it can be deduced

      from continuities

      such as these—yew

      trees, dark windows

      holding back dark sky,

      white flower. Here

      at the edges of belief,

      the boundary the kites

      have crossed breaking away,

      it is what holds still

      too long that belongs

      to us. The gaps

      between the trees

      move more rapidly.

      You can feel them

      in your kite’s crisp

      desire the moment before

      it leaves you. Above,

      in the garden clouds,

      home away from...

    • CROSS-STITCH
      (pp. 11-11)

      There is a cricket I can’t find, trapped in this house, loud and lost

      though thoroughly at home. He sings

      when I turn the lights on.

      Nothing is louder

      than his perpetual failure

      to recall just how he came here. Within our life

      is another life, a second memory of the same event, where we

      forget. Without,

      we are able to listen to someone else’s story, believe in

      another protagonist, but within,

      his presence would kill us.

      In our best world, the absolute

      fragrance of fully ready pears, becoming their portion of sunlight,

      opens into us, arriving

      by losing its...

    • STRANGERS
      (pp. 12-13)

      Indeed the tulips

      change tense

      too quickly.

      They open and fly off.

      And, holding absolutes

      at bay, the buds

      tear through the fruit trees,

      steeples into sky.

      Faith is where we are

      less filled

      with ourselves, and are

      expected nowhere—

      though it’s better to hurry.

      The starlings keep trying

      to thread the eyes

      of steeples.

      It’s hard, you can’t

      cross over. The skin

      of the pear tree is terse

      like the pear, and the acorn

      knows finally

      the road not taken

      in the oak.

      We have no mind

      in a world without objects.

      The vigor of our way

      is separateness...

    • DRAWING WILDFLOWERS
      (pp. 14-16)

      I use no colors, just number threes,

      and though I know there are gradations I will miss, in this manner change

      is pressure brought to bear, and then—

      as if something truthful could be made more true—

      the spiderwebs engraved on all successive sheets, flowers inhabited

      by the near disappearances of flowers.

      Having picked one

      I can start anywhere, and as it bends, weakening,

      ignore that.

      I can chart the shading of the moment—tempting—though shading

      changes hands so rapidly.

      Yet should I draw it changing, making of the flower a kind of mind

      in process, tragic and animal...

  4. II

    • MOTHER’S SEWING BOX
      (pp. 18-18)

      In an old cookie tin, because

      things last longer

      in the dark.

      She needs to be left alone.

      Here are saved

      the bits of string

      too small to save, the eyes

      of the needles.

      On the string

      the knots are birds that sit,

      that cannot leave. The buttons

      are wheels. Assemble them,

      these uneven machines,

      and they say,how much

      for Effort, or, wait,

      I’ve changed my mind,

      I want to come along.

      To disobey

      is to hide or to be

      unmended. Maybe you’ll find it,

      she says after I’ve said

      I don’t have, didn’t take,

      her belongings.

      The spools...

    • FOR MY FATHER LOOKING FOR MY UNCLE
      (pp. 19-19)

      The clues are everywhere.

      Between the trees, small drafts that make the forest visible.

      It takes forever to believe the dead are friendly.

      We feel their unwillingness in the pines

      motioning their needles in small reprimand.

      In West Virginia they are marked with bouquets on the lawn;

      at the end of each bouquet, a hand that can’t let go,

      and each in his own drawer at once hidden and found.

      My father buried his brother’s ashes here in a jar

      with a bottle of rye.

      Later, he didn’t want him drinking alone.

      Where did you go?Fall,

      the trees go...

    • THE CHICORY COMES OUT LATE AUGUST IN UMBRIA
      (pp. 20-20)

      Fall, there is open season

      on songbirds.

      You eat them whole.

      Late August

      they sing all night

      and line up on the wires

      as if to make of their bodies

      small notes;

      a very simple song theirs,

      almost a straight line

      like the men going home,

      looped strings

      over their backs,

      their dogs faithless

      but willing

      to be owned

      (or is itbecause?).

      You cannot enter

      says the birdsong;

      you cannot enter says

      the thirteenth century;

      you cannot, says the sky

      dropping and forcing you

      to look away. The chicory

      comes out late August,

      purple heads

      like grass skirts

      covering...

    • SYNTAX
      (pp. 21-21)

      Every morning and every dusk like black leaves

      the starlings cross,

      a regular syntax on wings.

      The gravestones lean, each

      more or less than its neighbor,

      as if to find

      a whole view—

      not unlike the way, in a crowd,

      we move to exclude others

      without degrading them,

      or how we wish, in conversation,

      to step aside without stepping back;

      or in desire.

      They say the eye is most ours

      when shut,

      that objects give no evidence

      that they are seen by us.

      Perhaps we move then

      to watch a tree stay still

      or move the other way from us...

    • TREE SURGEONS
      (pp. 22-22)

      Like feelers off into last night’s dream, out beyond the screens,

      they move in approximate circles around my neighbor’s elm.

      Gleeful performers,

      they know they belong here,

      drawing their large bows, toothed strings,

      across each branch with great discrimination.

      What crooked instruments! And yet

      symmetry governs,

      theirs an elm of two nests, two squirrels,

      a skinny elm of split decisions.

      How evenly it is rid of itself, tree of no nuance, no preference,

      of no cardinals loading red

      onto the sunny half. My neighbor sweeps the porch.

      It is taking longer than expected.

      There is notemporarilyshe thinks.

      I...

    • NETTING
      (pp. 23-23)

      My father would have saved us, had the occasion of fire arisen.

      Sundays, each at our post,

      we practiced—

      his

      fine network of hoses lacing into perfect

      webs. So much water,

      and each of us a knot we felt so safe in manning.

      I never really understood the underpinnings, miraculous nation

      beneath the smooth lawn—

      a private patriotism.

      Nothing again was ever as dangerous, as vulnerable. I know of father

      less than I imagine, but in the end

      all that we can know of anyone

      is what we promised them. I know, therefore,

      that fire is something we can catch...

    • JACKPOT
      (pp. 24-24)

      Halfway through Illinois on the radio

      they are giving away jackpots.

      I can hear them squeal as they win.

      Luck in this landscape lies flat

      as if to enter the ground and add to it as well.

      You can see its traces, milkweed caught in the fences,

      the sheen on the new grass

      that could be sunshine or white paint.

      But the brushstroke is visible.

      We wouldn't believe anything we saw without it—

      the brown, the green, the rectangle, the overpass.

      I believe now that sorrow

      is our presence in this by default.

      In a little while I hope there...

    • HARVEST FOR BERGSON
      (pp. 25-25)

      Last night I watched the harvest moonrise. There were moths

      trapped in with me. Hear them tap like fingertips

      on walls and windowpanes. For moonlight

      blurs the facts,

      its shade not keen or rational like that of sunlight

      seeking to capture the nature of its subject;

      it seeks, rather, to let it go,

      to show what it is not . . .

      Because it is what is not animal in us, the best intentions we still have

      at the moment of perception: to see it all.

      Then we grow hot, tragic and fleshed

      with intellect,

      dividing. The world we live...

    • FLOODING
      (pp. 26-27)

      Just rain for days and everywhere it goes it fits,

      like a desire become too accurate

      to be of use, the water

      a skirt the world

      is lifting and

      lifting

      like a debt ceiling.

      And everywhere you go you are the land between the lakes,

      the stroke of luck which has the world

      it splits in two

      for wings.

      Our ponds

      are almost joined. How much more than what we wished for

      must we get? How much more than plenty? Too much

      of a good thing,

      too much,

      the head becoming

      crown...

      And how this cinderella land is in full...

    • ONE IN THE HAND
      (pp. 28-29)

      A bird re-entering a bush,

      like an idea regaining

      its intention, seeks

      the missed discoveries

      before attempting

      flight again.

      The small black spirit

      tucks in its wings,

      softest accordion

      whose music is

      the perfect landing,

      the disappearance

      into the dangerous

      wintered body

      of forsythia. Just as

      from time to time

      we need to seize again

      the whole language

      in search of

      better desires.

      If we could only imagine

      a better arc

      of flight; you get

      just what you want.

      And see how beautiful

      an alphabet becomes

      when randomness sets in,

      like mother tired

      after disappointment,

      and keeping us

      uninformed—the...

    • AN ARTICHOKE FOR MONTESQUIEU
      (pp. 30-30)

      Its petals do not open of their own accord. That is our part,

      as the whisper is the hand we tender

      to the wish, though each

      would rather rule the field. What remains

      is the heart, its choke a small reminder to be mindful

      lest we go too far

      for flavor. These are the questions

      its petals part in answer to: where

      is God? how deep is space? is it inhabited? The artichoke

      is here that we imagine

      what universe once needed to create it,

      penetrable jewel;

      what mathematics.

      And then, now,

      when the earth is no longer the world,...

    • PENMANSHIP
      (pp. 31-31)

      Beyond the margin, in the mind, the winner gets it right,

      while here the l’s proceed in single file,

      each a large or smaller eye.

      What heaven can be true

      when its permissions

      vary so? The page

      is turned. Try it again. Each page a new decor, as here

      the f’s so many shut umbrellas

      on an empty beach, the waves the s’s make unable to link up,

      reach shore, and this

      a greenhouse, rows androws and I

      can’t ever pick

      the one I want,

      and this the desert we’d reclaim,

      and these the flooded lowlands, topsoil gone downstream, the...

    • TO PAUL ELUARD
      (pp. 32-32)

      Farewell to the caterpillars standing in minks

      in front of the Opera.

      Nobody knows if they wait, if this is patience.

      Farewell to the clocks fingering their wedding rings,

      the murmuring moon,

      farewell

      to public appetite.

      The seven headlengths of beauty have been cut off;

      we are putting them back. In the end

      the world is more like a person than not

      and we are dust

      only compared to what escapes us.

      The professors of ethics are gathering in the meadows,

      tears in their nets.

      Butterflies teach us to see meanings vanish.

      Not one gets away. a a a a...

  5. III

    • FRAMING
      (pp. 35-35)

      Something is left out, something left behind. As, for instance,

      in this photo of myself at four, the eyes

      focus elsewhere, the hand interrupted mid-air by some enormous,

      sudden,

      fascination.

      Something never before seen has happened left of frame,

      and everything already known

      is more opaque for it.

      Beyond the frame is why

      the hydrangea midsummer will go no further, though it continues,

      why this century, late and turning,

      turns away; beyond

      is where the story goes after all the knots are tied, and where

      the insects meet in order to become

      the grand machine they are the perfect parts...

    • FOR MARK ROTHKO
      (pp. 36-37)

      Shall I say it is the constancy of persian red

      that permits me to see

      this persian-red bird

      come to sit now

      on the brick barbecue

      within my windowframe. Red

      on a field made crooked

      as with disillusion or faulty

      vision, a backyard in winter

      that secretly seeks a bird. He has

      a curiosity

      that makes him slightly awkward,

      as if just learning

      something innate, and yet

      there is no impatience,

      just that pose of his

      once between each move

      as if to say, and isthispleasing?

      When I look again he is gone.

      He is easy to imagine...

    • THE GEESE
      (pp. 38-39)

      Today as I hang out the wash I see them again, a code

      as urgent as elegant,

      tapering with goals.

      For days they have been crossing. We live beneath these geese

      as if beneath the passage of time, or a most perfect heading.

      Sometimes I fear their relevance.

      Closest at hand,

      between the lines,

      the spiders imitate the paths the geese won’t stray from,

      imitate them endlessly to no avail:

      things will not remain connected,

      will not heal,

      and the world thickens with texture instead of history,

      texture instead of place.

      Yet the small fear of the spiders

      binds and...

    • NEW TREES
      (pp. 40-40)

      For long it seemed nothing could be made again of these lean branches,

      seamless, eyeless. Who

      would have ever known there were so many exits

      and that vanity could be regained from any one of them?

      In that sleep how the chapters of reason

      must have seemed accomplished

      like so many brilliantly dissembled butterflies or the flames

      mysteriously tucked into the delicate veins of pitch.

      Looking at them now, every leaf

      waving the others in, there is no way to imagine how

      two such maps could ever overlap. And yet

      it is what leaves the body after strictest exile there...

    • ON WHY I WOULD BETRAY YOU
      (pp. 41-41)

      Because this is the way our world goes under: white lies, the snow,

      each flake a single instance of

      nostalgia. Before you know it

      everything you’ve said

      is true. The flakes

      nest in the flaws, the hairline cracks, the stubs where branches

      snapped—only unbrokedlines, unwavering,

      for building on. How easily our tracks

      are filled. How easily

      we are undone,

      knowing the events

      without the plot: caution and light and the odor of skin threading

      the secret, a loom. What will happen?

      What I do

      in betrayal

      is play at being small, the body a protectorate I can win back...

    • MIRRORS
      (pp. 42-43)

      For some of us the only way of knowing we are here at all, going

      across and going down,

      exquisitely temporal though at no point believable; fragile; tragic.

      The mirror redeems

      the desire to wish,

      what we cannot see of ourselves staring back with its most accurate face.

      The closer you come

      the less believable—

      life-size that dangerous democracy that will destroy its subjects.

      Lookalikes, miniatures,

      as in the world of pine, are stabs at freedom:

      this limb twisted impossibly, that heighr not naturally achieved,

      achieved. Or,

      taking the lodgepole: in the clearings

      their maps are unreadable, carrying their for...

    • MIMICRY
      (pp. 44-45)

      The other woman,

      how I envy her,

      a sort of Canada

      to this confusion.

      Its evergreens

      are blue,

      a protection

      other than hiding—a woman

      with time on her hands. Here

      the trees turn yellow

      without each other's knowledge

      or help. Canada,

      whose side

      are you on, waiting

      for yours—saffron,

      jonquil, madder

      and amber. The blue

      evergreens

      with their oblique needles

      can wait forever;

      they have lost

      the small particular faces

      of their instruments. In Canada

      the eyes miss the background

      and the fore.Remember

      the long heavy pods of the locust, late August,

      on the trimmed lawn,

      small...

    • SELF-PORTRAIT
      (pp. 46-47)

      After fresh snow I'll go up to the attic and look out.

      My looking is a set of tracks—the firsta—

      description of the view

      that cannot mar it.

      Again and again

      I trip across it,

      terrain impregnable

      yet yours for the sighting.

      Eye-level in the world

      something difficult in disappearing from our lives, something critical

      like emphasis

      or the blue

      deep-grooved river currents now reduced to pattern

      in the ice. While from up here

      it seems less small a thing

      to keep each to our side,

      and everything

      keeps trying

      to reach the sky. I want to change for...

    • GIRL AT THE PIANO
      (pp. 48-49)

      It begins, what I can hear, with the train withdrawing from itself

      at an even pace in the night although it always seems

      to withdraw from us.

      Our house almost continues

      in its neighbors, although the thinnest bent and wavering fence

      keeps us completely strange.

      Perhaps it is a daughter who practices the piano, practices

      slow and overstressed like the train. slow and relentless

      like the crickets weaving their briar between us and growing increasingly

      unsure of purpose. These three sounds continue, and I

      alongside them so that we seem to stand

      terribly still. Every change

      is into a new...

    • MY FACE IN THE MIRROR TELLS A STORY OF DELICATE AMBITIONS
      (pp. 50-50)

      And yes it is a personal event, this flowering each time I look again; and no

      it is not my portrait. Rather

      see it as a granted wish, or, further, as who wished for it

      in its silver room

      where exit is blocked and it must turn back on its tracks, my tracks. And so,

      this morning once again find

      something more gathered and tucked; something devoted,

      seductive. It is trying

      to capture the true likeness of its subject, and I

      need keep afi eye on its attempts. For who

      is it after, after all, face

      inhabited by self as...

    • STILL LIFE
      (pp. 51-52)

      Beyond the windowframe, two wintered maples overlap sufficiently

      to weave a third, a tree

      all boundaries,

      more opaque for the doubling,

      and indivisible enough

      to hold us,

      like the body.

      Beyond the windowpane, still weather

      orders the world as though expecting thought, a premonition

      of the real

      in the still.

      For at the windowpane

      we are the heroes

      leaving home to journey out over the visible, that trusty fabric,

      and are the heroines

      staying behind.

      Sometimes a squirrel

      will travel back and forth between the two trees thin as scaffolding—

      small leaps like stitches

      until their separation is

      firmly repaired...

  6. IV

    • HOW MORNING GLORIES COULD BLOOM AT DUSK
      (pp. 55-55)

      Left to itself the heart continues, as the tamarind

      folds its leaves every night and the mimosa,

      even in perpetual darkness, opens and shuts

      with the sun.

      It is moved by such delays:

      cat’s-ears open at six, african marigolds, lilies

      at seven, at eight the passionflower.

      Its light awaits the souls of the living, its birds

      for the branches to unfold in song;

      the end of its year awaits each noon the opening

      of the chicory of the meadow, and its meadows

      imagine other sleepless flower beds.

      If there is another world, then this is it:

      the real, the virtual,...

    • IN HIGH WATERS
      (pp. 56-56)

      Quartered, cleaned, this beautiful black wire looped and knotted

      through the skin, the squash hung on the porch.

      All September they puckered, cracked. Then they were dry.

      They clicked a little when the wind

      made its way past them: hollow sounds, almost pleasing—cupped hands

      clapping a bit for themselves when we weren’t looking.

      November I drew them.

      They had stopped changing.

      I drew them landlocked. Canyons.

      They scorned the rivers that had abandoned them.

      Four phases of some moon, I drew them. Four rowboats run around.

      Four, leashed to their piling, nudging each other

      from time to time. Four...

    • OVER AND OVER STITCH
      (pp. 57-57)

      Late in the season the world digs in, the fat blossoms

      hold still for just a moment longer.

      Nothing looks satisfied,

      but there is no real reason to move on much further:

      this isn’t a bad place;

      why not pretend

      we wished for it?

      The bushes have learned to live with their haunches.

      The hydrangea is resigned to its pale and inconclusive utterances.

      Towards the end of the season

      it is not bad

      to have the body. To have experienced joy

      as the mere lifting of hunger

      is not to have known it

      less. The tobacco leaves

      don’t mind being...

    • THE SLOW SOUNDING AND EVENTUAL REEMERGENCE OF
      (pp. 58-59)

      this whale, this valentine. Yours.

      Your patience on parade.Where is your quiet

      you said, for I can’t hear

      the oblique messages, the discords

      your listening

      is code for. And oh you are willing

      to wait forever,

      while the day is so quick and the noise, the volatile noise,

      such a ladder. To hell

      with installments, implications, slow

      assimilation. Let’s

      buy it all. But you

      are willing and waiting,

      and at its soft core, this knowing nothing

      about evejthing, I imagine

      a slow pulse like that of sand in rock, and rock

      in vein, though this vein

      you travel—silk...

    • THE NATURE OF EVIDENCE
      (pp. 60-60)

      In winter the onset of day lingers all day,

      the frozen vines of bittersweet have their mantilla drawn

      over the bushes stiff as combs,

      a marriage

      the slightest growth would snap.

      And the roses are happy trapped in their passage,

      and the final wishes of the squirrels have been left

      like necklaces over this still

      and absolutely willing

      nape—

      they’ve all arrived someplace by now. Indoors,

      our tracks are merely different:

      what concerns us is luck,

      whose turn it is.

      Sometimes you

      will take my clasped hands into yours,

      wonderful double entry

      that does not try to hide

      how our...

    • MIND
      (pp. 61-61)

      The slow overture of rain,

      each drop breaking

      without breaking into

      the next, describes

      the unrelenting, syncopated

      mind. Not unllke

      the hummingbirds

      imagining their wings

      to be their heart, and swallows

      believing the horizon

      to be a line they lift

      and drop. What is it

      they cast for? The poplars,

      advancing or retreating,

      lose their stature

      equally, and yet stand firm,

      making arrangements

      in order to become

      imaginary. The city

      draws the mind in streets,

      and streets compel it

      from their intersections

      where a little

      belongs to no one. It is

      what is driven through

      all stationary portions

      of the...

    • NOW THE STURDY WIND
      (pp. 62-62)

      Now the sturdy wind is, more than ever, useful. It pulls

      each reluctant hem of greenery from what it has got stuck on: air,

      the blue between

      the branches.

      Leaves would otherwise remain, it seems, like so much currency,

      out of date, still clinging to

      a value presumed absolute.

      Everything goes.

      Everything goes in this wind, turning and twisting, seeking

      in every seed

      to be windborne, reborn, in every leaf and stem and runner and the very smallest

      flared buds off the lilacs.

      And yet the weeds, what an example they set, here, where salvation is

      to be released forever...

    • LOURDES: SYLLABLES FOR A FRIEND
      (pp. 63-63)

      So this is the weakness of the flesh, the urges

      become wistfulness of mind; and here

      the former cured

      care for the hopeful,

      each awaiting

      total remission,

      to be so absolutely

      seen. And to be clean is to walk from here to there,

      to overlook this world at will. So here

      at her mouth, Saint

      Bernadette who saw

      no visions, they

      await her hunger,

      rows and rows of limbs and wheels

      and independent second clocks—a twisted vine-

      war like the kudzu, May, over the stands

      of birch; each breathing,

      each different hope,

      interweaving like

      the incandescent

      tubework, oils, acids...

    • THE AFTERLIFE
      (pp. 64-64)

      In the afterlife there is shade in the weave of severe

      sunlight. Fatigue

      is a kind of joy.

      In some of us the afterlife loosens feature after feature

      as if this life were held in bones, boundaries that melt

      easy as the claims

      of progress. Its loneliness is jazz.

      The afterlife affords us sudden clearings in the woods,

      succinct transitions in the argument. And it exacts a church,

      divides us perfectly among the pews.

      Perfectly we face

      all the same way, believing

      we overlook nothing.

      It faces only out

      to the dour sadness of the aspen going suddenly heavy

      on...

    • PEARLS
      (pp. 65-65)

      Here the world, in fall, engenders mast that it may tempt

      the grazing barnyard animals

      from domesticity.

      Left to it for long, they would go wild, though a simple handful

      of corn will bring them back within our realm.

      How much slowness

      must be reabsorbed then, upon reentry, letting the quickness

      out as the fat flies do

      slowing down now that they’ve come, at last, to live indoors,

      connecting station to station

      in one last map. To be saved

      is to keep finding new solutions to the problem, like scat

      singing or improvisation where you’re never wrong

      as long as...

    • A FEATHER FOR VOLTAIRE
      (pp. 66-68)

      The bird is an alphabet, it flies

      above us, catch

      as catch can,

      a flock,

      a travel plan.

      Some never touch ground.

      And each flight is an arc to buttress the sky,

      a loan to the sky.

      And the little words we make of them, the single feathers, dropped

      for us to recover,

      fall and fall, a nimble armor . . .

      feather feather of this morning where does your garden grow

      flying upwind, saying look

      it is safe

      never to land,

      it is better.

      A man full of words

      is a garden of weeds,

      and when the weeds grow,...

  7. NOTES ON THE POEMS
    (pp. 69-69)