Message from Armagh Cathedral 2011.
How will it be told, this evidence, our life, all the clues missing? The clock I left in my hotel room, all time landing on it at once, has no way to move forward so round and round it goes, making its ball its in- visible thread pulling through everything, tensile, on which the whole story depends. But what if it has no direction. We, whoever we were, made that up. Everything that caught our eye--shining--we took. Because it exhibited unexpected movement, quicksilver, we took it by spear. Because it whistled through air, barely dropping its aim from the sniper we took it to heart. Because it lowered its head in shyness where sun touched it and it put one hand into its other and sang to itself thinking itself alone, we took it to love, ob- sessed, heavy with jealousy. Maybe we killed it to keep it. But yes it was love. Or we looked up and thought "do we hear clearly?" and thought "yes" and went back to work. So then why are you here today on this church floor in Armagh, piece of stone, large as an infant, hundreds of pounds, triangular body which ends at waist, swaddled by carvings, 3000 years old, worked through by chisel and wind and porous where granite has lost all surface? I crouch down and put my own pale arms round you. No one sees me. No one on planet earth sees us. You say who are you to me . I see around you the animals run into the woods for cover, away from the priest arriving, the sanctuary around you tall, the shadows long, movement in it yes, human movement rare. You must have sat in a high place I say here on the floor in this back corner where you are dis- carded. What have you seen I say under my breath that I might have seen . I have seen what is under your breath you reply. I press you to me as I did my child, keeping my hand on the top of your head, your face on my chest. Rainbow you say. Blood. Wind. Sky blue--though maybe not the same as yours now, no . There is a wedding rehearsal in the body of the church-- laughter and constant rehearsal of vows--will you take her--I listen for the yes--will you take him--the families chattering, casual dress, no one in tears as these are not the real vows yet. Tomorrow they will be cast in stone. Tomorrow they will vow to love for all eternity, or that part of it they inhabit called "as long as you shall live," adding their sliver of time onto the back of the beast turning under us. And the little girls coming round for hide and seek. The men discussing politics. The women in the hum of long time and short time. No one to stop the minutes. Their current cannot be stanched. Soon it will be Fall again. The dress, she says, will have an old fashioned cut. I wish her luck when our paths cross about an hour from now. I mean what I say to the stranger. She sees me mean it. On the threshold. Each headed for our car. But you, here on the floor, found in a garden in Tandragee, carved by someone with strong hands in the Bronze Age, you are the ancient Irish king Nuadha, ruler of the Tuatha De Danann, your people, for whom you lost your left arm, those you defeated moving on elsewhere, westward, while you were forced to stand down as king, not being "completely whole in body, without arm." And no good king succeeded you. And after great hardship your people prayed your physician Dian Cecht build a new arm out of silver that you be able to take up kingship again. Here you are holding the left arm on at shoulder with your right. Here you are whole again. Almost. I bring my hand down onto that spot. Three hands, same size, where I clasp yours, where I cover it, where I hold your arm on you with you. At this moment on this earth mostly in desert many arms are not recovered after the device goes off and the limbs sever. Field hospitals hold young men screaming where are my legs. Elsewhere leaders are making decisions. They are thinking about something else while they make them. And names are called out by a surgeon. An aide enters a room when called. A mother opens a door when called. A child opens a gift when told ok, now, go ahead. A sentence is being pronounced: you shall lose your hands, you shall lose your feet. You might be a country. You might be a young man who touched the face of a girl in a village thinking yourself alone. You are not alone the spies survive. The spies are intact. They slaughter the whole animal for sacrifice, all of it at once. The sentence is truncated even if the man is told: do you have anything to say before we begin -- they do not wait for him to finish. His mouth hangs open over his swinging body. His lifespan is missing a part: the future. His dream is missing a part: the rest. He is missing his extremity. Look, look, a button is missing on your long garment, lord. Look, the jug of water has been brought to wash off the gaping place which is the redrawn border to your nation. I put my arms around you. You are the size of my child at six months. I put my hand in your wide carved mouth: your maker made you speaking, or pro- nouncing a law, or crying out--I can put my fingers into your stone mouth up to my palm. Suckle. Speak. Cry. Promise. I will keep my fingers between your strong cold lips you shall not be alone. When I move up your cheeks I feel the bulge of your granite eyes, wide brow, your eyes again, both hands with fingers rounding eyes. How shall we be whole. Who will make the missing part. The biggest obstacle is not knowing of what ? Once I saw a wall with its executions still in it--the bullet holes with my fingers in them were just this eye's size. Once I met you, you lowered your other arm and said why are you taking me this way. I said I am just on the road, we do not have another way to go. Where does the road go. Tell me, you said. I said hold your arm on I can't see a thing without its shine. This isn't a road. I saw bodies and statues but did not tell you. You were the thing I was here to get, to get to the place where the next king would take us. The last thing that dies? The last thing that dies is the body. I am feeling inside your mouth. She is trying to say the vow again--till death do us part--and I cannot make out what it is that time will do to them. Why are we going this way. The flowergirls are carrying a pretend train now, laughter as they go by. The ring bearer is carrying the pillow with no ring. In late morning a short time before the explosive device hidden in the basket of fresh laundry went off, Private Jackson, who still had arms then, reached down in secret, weapon in one hand, to feel the clean fabric. Actually to smell it. Clean , he thought. He used to hang it out for his mom, afternoons, hands up at the shoulders of each shirt, an extra clip in his teeth, as if surrendering. He remembers the lineup of shirt sleeves all blowing one way in the early evening, in Indiana, and for a blinding moment he realizes they had been pointing, his brothers, his father, his uncle, they all had been pointing--in their blues and whites and checks. He wishes he had turned to see, is what he thinks just before it goes off, they seemed about to start a dance--the tiny rhythm in the flapping sleeves. They did not seem like strangers. Then he realizes it is here now, that sound, is feet all running on dirt as fast as possible away from this place. The bride steps out into the sun. I feel there is something I must tell her. May your wishes come true I say, guidebook in hand. Tomorrow, she says. I can't wait until tomorrow.
JORIE GRAHAM is the author of numerous collections of poetry, most recently Sea Change (Ecco, 2008), Never (2002), Swarm (2000), and The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994. which won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
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|Title Annotation:||four poems|
|Publication:||The American Poetry Review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2012|
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