this is freedom. This is the face of faith, nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by
each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself.
Also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something
at sea. Here hands full of sand, letting it sift through
in the wind, I look in and say take this, hurry. And if I listen
now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only
something I did. I could not chose words. I am free to go.
I cannot, of course, come back. Not to this. Never.
It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.

Jorie Graham, from “Prayer,” Never (Ecco, 2003)


Pick     a card.

Wrong again.

Interrupt    belief.

Write down    hope.

Move lips in sleep.



Be   less.

Be found.

Be    muzzled.

Say    write hard answers on me.

Bear down    make clear.

The moon rises.

Will never be perfect.

Be good    open mouth.

Don’t scream.

Let light come into     taste light.


Turn if it’s allowed.

Be outstanding.

Give pleasure away.

Give trust away.

With your mouth     loosen everything.

(Music in the distance)

(A man sleeping under a tree near noon)

Let the other mouth seal yours.

Let the other mouth heal yours over.

Run out of air.

Don’t break seal.



Let the given tighten.

Be the experiment.

Forgo explanation.

Touch pain     with great curiosity.

Jorie Graham

What is the light
at the end of the day, deep, reddish-gold, bathing the walls,
the corridors, light that is no longer light, no longer clarifies,
illuminates, antique, freed from the body of
the air that carries it. What is it
for the space of time
where it is useless, merely
—  Jorie Graham, from “Salmon”
[I think the world
        is a desperate
element. It would have us
        calm it,

receive it.] Therefore this
        is what I
must ask you
        to imagine: wind;
the moment
        when the wind

drops; and grapes,
        which are nothing,
which break
        in your hands.
—  Jorie Graham, from “Scirocco”
Here. You are at the beginning of something. At the exact
beginning. Ok. This is awakening
number two in here, in this poem. Then there are
these: me: you: you there. I’m actually staring up at
you, you know, right here, right from the pool of this page.
Don’t worry where else I am, I am here. Don’t
worry if I’m still alive, you are.

Jorie Graham, from her poem “Dawn Day One (Dec 21 ‘03)”, from her book Overlord

(But I found it in American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry, which has all of the annoying aspects of any old Norton, plus innovative contemporary poetry that takes turns dazzling, confusing, and upsetting me.)

I think I am probably in love with silence, that other world. And that I write, in some way, to negotiate seriously with it… . Because there is, of course, always the desire, the hope, that they are not two separate worlds, sound and silence, but that they become each other, that only our hearing fails.
—  Jorie Graham, “Some Notes on Silence” in 19 New American Poets of the Golden Gate