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Jorie Graham

Jorie Graham

Jorie Graham is the author of 11 volumes of poetry, most recently Sea Change. Her new collection Place will be out next spring from HarperCollins/Ecco. She teaches at Harvard.

School Day

Open eyes the horizon through the window and yes
                                                        you are still
                                                        here thinking
                                                        floods or
                                                        flashes in or on and the day
as you must live it
                                                        begins. An invisible clock
unlike the visible one in every respect
                                                        begins. The visible
                                                        one never
                                                        stops, this
                                                        one is yours,
                                                        personal,
your lifelong exile from some other place the wallpaper of
                                                        the given
                                                        masks—
endeavor, price, the cosmetics of
                                                        class hunger apple falling
                                                        not far from
                                                        tree—species category, desire
for right of return (to what)—all so strong in one, an echo that will
                                                        not stop, fleshy echo,
                                                        you with your
                                                        calf now stepping
                                                        down off the ledge of
sleep.... Laugh says the light. Do it right now, you can
                                                        still save yourself. But you can't hear. Own
                                                        it, fill it, clear all
                                                        pathways says the
                                                        brain, but it is
                                                        like water
flowing through you, you let it go, you seek a place
                                                        to be like stone but
                                                        even the shadow under the
                                                        stone will not
have you—be born says the slipper you step
                                                        into, it takes so
                                                        little, this left leg
                                                        with its muscles in
reach, bring in the right one, stand—squint or you
                                                        will see the air's all
                                                        scars, all ancient and
                                                        up-to-the-minute
                                                        scars, it's been
ripped open by the mind, but never mind say the two
                                                        slippers you
                                                        can move out in us, you
                                                        can glide
through this so-called thin air, your body is your deed
                                                        of ownership for
                                                        your given
                                                        days, your gaze you
                                                        can hold
                                                        up, a
lantern in the judgment-fattened
                                                       dark, but see you
                                                       cannot see
                                                       the lucent skin
                                                       dark wears so it
looks just like day. Good morning. Be balletic,
                                                       noble, act out
                                                       the little mercies,
the fondness, the sensation of acceptable risk, the children
                                                       are being readied, the shadows
                                                       are shortening,
                                                       the ball of yarn's
raveling, you feel it in the hollow of your palm
                                                       as you now use
                                                       your hand to
                                                       touch—their head their
                                                       face, the mouth, shut eyes—how fast the ball

is tugging now, how much new yarn just these few words
                                                       let loose, sea-
                                                       current, through
the chasm—so blue—the eye of the needle, the
                                                       narrow slit, the
                                                       end it
                                                       goes into whoosh are
their lunches ready, quick, their books
                                                       their bikes their sacks on
                                                       their backs the sand
you watch flow through them in drifts of
                                                       grains as they kiss and
                                                       push off
                                                       into the stinging
                                                       sequence of
events—and the yarn will not tangle, no,
                                                       not even one knot
                                                       for one fraction of
                                                       an instant
snag, to let the mountain be the mountain out
                                                       the window and not
                                                       erode, to have the
                                                       mind on this side
of the window gleam, where the steam from the cleaning up of
                                                       dishes rises and
                                                       there
is the dream of never going or being left
                                                       behind, the dream
                                                       glowing where light
touches the pane of the heroic and is wiped away, just like that,
                                                       and the pebble creeps into the shoe,
and the outset being a wide place one cannot
                                                       cross, it whispers sit
                                                       down
refuse identity be a
                                                       shut mouth
                                                       in a smile
wide as the whole abyss—

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