Thursday, April 27, 2006

Remembrance of enthusiasms past

April is almost over, which means National Poetry Month, too, is almost over. So I should post another poem, methinks.

And I thought I would post a poem that, when I first read it during the early heady days of my MFA, I was absolutely in love with. Like I've mentioned before, in the moment of my enthusiasm, the object of that emotion is without fault. And so it was for awhile many years ago: Jorie Graham was a goddess. I read the poem I'll be posting just before I discovered her later poems with blanks. Yes, poems with __________. Now, I ask you: how cool is that? ;-)

Anyway, later, I decided her poems were, oh, too bourgeois. And so I sold The End of Beauty (which collected many of those poems-with-blanks) in one of my formerly frequent bookselling purges. (When my friend and fellow poet JD later saw it at the local used bookstore, he asked me, with some concern, how my copy of Jorie Graham had ended up there.) I did, however, keep Erosion, where this poem ("San Sepolcro")originally appeared.

I still rather like this poem. I'm a pushover for language that seems to allude to something simultaneously mysterious and sensuous ("There's milk on the air, / ice on the oily / lemonskins."). Maybe that can be blamed on my Baptist upbringing, too? (The poem's below the fold. Or read it here: the spacing is strange below, so it will be easier to view at the external site.)

San Sepolcro
by Jorie Graham

In this blue light

I can take you there,

snow having made me

a world of bone

seen through to. This

is my house,

my section of Etruscan

wall, my neighbor's

lemontrees, and, just below

the lower church,

the airplane factory.

A rooster

crows all day from mist

outside the walls.

There's milk on the air,

ice on the oily

lemonskins. How clean

the mind is,

holy grave. It is this girl

by Piero

della Francesca, unbuttoning

her blue dress,

her mantle of weather,

to go into

labor. Come, we can go in.

It is before

the birth of god. No one

has risen yet

to the museums, to the assembly


and wings--to the open air

market. This is

what the living do: go in.

It's a long way.

And the dress keeps opening

from eternity

to privacy, quickening.

Inside, at the heart,

is tragedy, the present moment

forever stillborn,

but going in, each breath

is a button

coming undone, something terribly


finding all of the stops.

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