The Errancy

By Jorie Graham b. 1950 Jorie Graham
Then the cicadas again like kindling that won’t take.
The struck match of some utopia we no longer remember   
                                                   the terms of—
the rules. What was it was going to be abolished, what   
restored? Behind them the foghorn in the harbor,   
the hoarse announcements of unhurried arrivals,
the spidery virgin-shrieks of gulls, a sideways sound, a slippery   
                                                            utterly ash-free
delinquency
and then the subaqueous pasturings       inexhaustible
phosphorous handwritings the frothings of their own excitements now   
erase, depth wrestling with the current-corridors of depth ...   
But here, up on the hill, in town,
the clusterings of dwellings in balconied crystal-formation,   
the cadaverous swallowings of the dream of reason gone,
hot fingerprints where thoughts laid out these streets, these braceletings   
of park and government—a hospital—a dirt-bike run—
here, we stand in our hysteria with our hands in our pockets,   
quiet, at the end of day, looking out, theories stationary,   
while the freight, the crazy wick, once more slides down—
marionette-like its being lowered in—
marionette-strung our outwaiting its bloody translation ...   
Utopia: remember the sensation of direction we loved,   
how it tunneled forwardly for us,
and us so feudal in its wake—
speckling of diamond-dust as I think of it now,
that being carried forward by the notion of human   
perfectibility—like a pasture imposed
on the rising vibrancy of endless diamond-dust ...
And how we would comply, some day. How we were built to fit and   
                                                                         comply—
as handwriting fits to the form of its passion,
no, to the form of its passionate bearer’s fingerprintable i.d.,
or, no, to the handkerchief she brings now to her haunted face,   
lifting the sunglasses to wipe away
the theory—or is it the tears?—the freight now all   
in her right hand, in the oceanic place we’d pull up   
through her wrist—we’d siphon right up—
marionette with her leavening of mother-of-pearl—
how she wants to be legible, how the light streaking her shades now   
                                                            grows vermilion,
which she would capture of course, because that, she has heard,   
from the rumorous diamond-dust, is what is required,   
as also her spirit—now that it has been swallowed
like a lustrous hailstone by her unquenchable body—suggests—the zero   
at the heart of the christened bonfire—oh little grimace, kiss, solo   
at the heart—growing refined, tiny missionary, in your brightskirted   
                                                                           host,
scorched comprehension—because that is what’s required,   
her putting down now the sunset onto that page,
as an expression of her deepest undertowing sentiment,
which spidery gestures, tongued-over the molecular whiteness,   
squared out and stretched and made to resemble emptiness,   
will take down the smoldering in the terms of her passion
—sunglasses on the table, telephone ringing—
and be carried across the tongue-tied ocean,
through dusk, right through it, over prisons, over tiny clapboard houses   
to which the bartender returns, exhausted, after work,   
over flare-ups of civil strife, skeletons rotting in the arms of   
skeletons, the foliage all round them gleaming,
the green belly-up god we thought we’d seen the last of,
shuddering his sleep off, first fruit hanging ripe—oh bright red zero—
right there within reach, that he too may be nourished,   
you know this of course, what has awakened which we thought we’d   
                                                                   extinguished,
us still standing here sword in hand, hand extended,   
frail, over the limpid surface of the lake-like page,
the sleep-like page, now folded and gently driven into
its envelope, for the tiny journey, over offices, over sacrifices,   
to its particular address, at the heart of the metropolis,   
where someone else is waiting, hailstone at the core,   
and the heat is too great, friend, the passion in its envelope,   
doors slamming, traffic backing-up, the populace not really   
abandoned, not really, just very tired on its long red errancy   
down the freeways in the dusklight
towards the little town on the hill—the crystal-formation?
how long ago was it we said that? do you remember?—
and now that you’ve remembered—and the distance we’ve   
traveled—and where we were, then—and
how little we’ve found—aren’t we tired? aren’t we   
going to close the elaborate folder
which holds the papers in their cocoon of possibility,   
the folder so pretty with its massive rose-blooms,
oh perpetual bloom, dread fatigue, and drowsiness like leavening I   
feel—

Jorie Graham, “The Errancy” from The Errancy. Copyright © 1997 by Jorie Graham. Used with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: The Errancy (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1997)

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Poet Jorie Graham b. 1950

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 Jorie  Graham

Biography

One of the most celebrated poets of the American post-war generation, Jorie Graham is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Hybrids of Plants and Ghosts (1980), Erosion (1983), The End of Beauty (1987), Region of Unlikeness (1991), The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1992 (1995) winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, Never (2002), Sea Change (2008), and Place (2012), among others. Born in New . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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