The Visible World

By Jorie Graham b. 1950 Jorie Graham
I dig my hands into the absolute. The surface
                                                                 breaks
into shingled, grassed clusters; lifts.
If I press, pick-in with fingers, pluck,
I can unfold the loam. It is tender. It is a tender
maneuver, hands making and unmaking promises.
Diggers, forgetters. . . . A series of successive single instances . . .
Frames of reference moving . . .
The speed of light, down here, upthrown, in my hands:
bacteria, milky roots, pilgrimages of spores, deranged
                                                                 and rippling
mosses. What heat is this in me
that would thaw time, making bits of instance
                                                                   overlap
shovel by shovelful—my present a wind blowing through
                                                                         this culture
slogged and clutched-firm with decisions, overridings,
                                                                     opportunities
taken? . . . If I look carefully, there in my hand, if I
                                                     break it apart without
crumbling: husks, mossy beginnings and endings, ruffled
                                                                           airy loambits,
and the greasy silks of clay crushing the pinerot
                                                                            in . . .
Erasure. Tell me something and then take it back.
Bring this pellucid moment—here on this page now
                                                       as on this patch
of soil, my property—bring it up to the top and out
                                                                               of
sequence. Make it dumb again—won’t you?—what
                                                                     would it
take? Leach the humidities out, the things that will
                                                                         insist on
making meaning. Parch it. It isn’t hard: just take this
                                                                          shovelful
and spread it out, deranged, a vertigo of single
                                                                     clots
in full sun and you can, easy, decivilize it, un-
                                                                hinge it
from its plot. Upthrown like this, I think you can
                                                             eventually
abstract it. Do you wish to?
Disentangled, it grows very very clear.
Even the mud, the sticky lemon-colored clay
hardens and then yields, crumbs.
I can’t say what it is then, but the golden-headed
                                                   hallucination,
mating, forgetting, speckling, inter-
                                           locking,
will begin to be gone from it and then its glamorous
                                                                            veil of
echoes and muddy nostalgias will
be gone. If I touch the slender new rootings they show me
                                                                            how large I
am, look at these fingers—what a pilot—I touch, I press
                                                                         their slowest
electricity. . . . What speed is it at?
What speed am I at here, on my knees, as the sun traverses now
                                                                                 and just begins
to touch my back. What speed where my fingers, under the
                                                                              dark oaks,
are suddenly touched, lit up—so white as they move, the ray for
                                                                                         a moment
on them alone in the small wood.
White hands in the black-green glade,
opening the muddy cartoon of the present, taking the tiny roots
                                                                                        of the moss
apart, hired hands, curiosity’s small army, so white
                                                        in these greens—
make your revolution in the invisible temple,
make your temple in the invisible
revolution—I can’t see the errands you run, hands gleaming
                                                            for this instant longer
like tinfoil at the bottom here of the tall
                                      whispering oaks . . .
Listen, Boccioni the futurist says a galloping horse
                                                               has not four
legs (it has twenty)—and “at C there is no sequence
because there is no time”—and since
at lightspeed, etc. (everything is simultaneous): my hands
serrated with desires, shoved into these excavated
                                                                           fates
—mauve, maroons, gutters of flecking golds—
my hands are living in myriad manifestations
                                                       of light. . . .
“All forms of imitation are to be despised.”
“All subjects previously used must be discarded.”
“At last we shall rush rapidly past objectiveness” . . .
Oh enslavement, will you take these hands
                                       and hold them in
for a time longer? Tops of the oaks, do you see my tiny
                                                                      golden hands
pushed, up to the wrists,
into the present? Star I can’t see in daylight, young, light
                                                                     and airy star—
I put the seed in. The beam moves on.

Jorie Graham, “The Visible World” from The Dream of the Unified Field:Selected Poems 1974-1994. Copyright © 1995 by Jorie Graham. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

Source: The Dream of the Unified Field:Selected Poems 1974-1994 (Ecco Press, 1995)

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