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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
 round and round it
 goes, making its ball its
 visible thread pulling
through everything, tensile, on which the whole story
 depends. But what if
 it has no
 direction. We,
 whoever we were, made
 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
 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
 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,
. 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
 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
 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
 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
 who still had arms then,
reached down in secret, weapon in one hand, to feel the clean fabric.
 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
 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
 and checks. He wishes he
had turned to see, is what he thinks just before it goes off, they
 about to start a
dance--the tiny rhythm in the flapping sleeves. They did not seem like
 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
Author:Graham, Jorie
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Poem
Geographic Code:4EUUN
Date:Mar 1, 2012
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