Full Fathom

By Jorie Graham b. 1950 Jorie Graham
& sea swell, hiss of   incomprehensible flat: distance: blue long-fingered ocean and its   
                                                                                                 nothing else: nothing in the above visible except   
                                                                                                 water: water and   
always the white self-destroying bloom of   wavebreak &, upclose   
                                                                                                 roil, &   
                                                                                                 here, on what’s left of   land,   
ticking of   stays against empty flagpoles, low tide, free day, nothing   
                                                                                                 being   
                                                                                                 memorialized here today — memories float, yes,   
over the place but not memories any of   us now among the living   
                                                                                                 possess — open your   
hands — let go the scrap metal with the laughter — let go the   
                                                                                                 upstairs neighbor you did not   
                                                                                                 protect — they took him   
                                                                                                 away — let go how frightened you knew he was all   
along while you went on with your   
                                                                                                 day — your day overflowing with time and   
place — they came and got him — there are manners for every kind of   
                                                                                                 event — he stopped reading and looked up   
                                                                                                 when they came in — didn’t anyone tell you   
you would never feel at home — that there is a form of   slavery in everything — and when was it   
                                                                                                 in   your admittedly short   
                                                                                                 life you   
were permitted to believe that this lasted   
                                                                                                 forever — remove   your   hands   
from your pockets — take out that laundry list, that receipt for   
                                                                                                 everything you   
                                                                                                 pawned last night — decide whom to blame —   
                                                                                                 stick to your   
story — exclude expectation of   heavenly   
                                                                                                 reward — exclude   
                                                                                                 the milk of   
human kindness — poisoned from the start — yes — who ever expected that   
to be the mistake — with all the murderers and miracle workers — with the hovering   
                                                                                                 spidery   
                                                                                                 fairy tales — kites, angels, missiles, evening   
papers, yellow stars — clouds — those were houses that are his eyes — those were lives that   
                                                                                                 are his   
eyes — those are families, those are privacies, those are details — those are reparation   
                                                                                                 agreements, summary   
                                                                                                 judgments, those are multiplications   
on the face of   the earth that are — those are the forests, the coal seams, the   
                                                                                                 carbon sinks that are his —   
                                                                                                 as they turn into carbon sources — his —
and the festering wounds that are — and the granary that burned — and the quick blow   
                                                                                                 administered to make it   
                                                                                                 painless, so-   
                                                                                                 called — his eyes his   yes   his blows his seed’s first   
                                                                                                 insertion into this our only soil —   
                                                                                                 &   the flower, the cut   
                                                                                                 flower in my   
                                                                                                 bouquet here,   
made from the walk we took this morning, aimless, as if   free,   
                                                                                                 where you asked me to   
                                                                                                 marry you, &   the loaf   of   
barley, millet and wheat I was able,   
                                                                                                 as a matter of course, to bring to the table, fresh-   
                                                                                                 baked,   
                                                                                                 in life.

Source: Poetry (February 2008).

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This poem originally appeared in the February 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2008
 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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem


Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.