much farther. You’ve been given your coat, sewn with a coda.
Late for morning—early for evening—the generalities
are coming down in laxly sundered specks. What little magic
might spread over us is here. A sniff, a blink, a slow indexical trail
telling across the hall table, those coming, those going,
the dry, tickling, stuffy taste, a close-to-weightless song of matter
layering itself to rest, the same, the sorry, the everywhere falling
light and steady, heavy and delayed—why,
you’ll kiss the very picture of it, face and glass
amassing days of it, motes and motes, loose as you please,
dry as a sifting snowfall never made of water.
But soft. Cut from the same cloth. Of a body with. I think
we’re near, we’re almost there. But see how much this stuff
is like our leaving out all thought of us. Only touch
the sleeve, the seam. Dander, pollen, daydream.
It’s good, the dream, I think. I think
it has to be.
When everything broken is broken,
and everything dead is dead.
Robert Hass, “Faint Music”
When the Devil you do know is inappreciably
different from the one you don’t.
When the notch cut in the mourning circle whistles.
When you are very busy procrastinating
for the rest of your life. When the hundred-some
blackbird updraft happens.
alphabetically, a bead falls somewhere between a beach and a bear.
That I want to have an abacus
and don’t pretend to know how an abacus works.
When Mary, my former Chair, is quoting someone
who writes on fantasy.
And she says he says
Fantasy hesitates. Like the hundred or so blackbirds I saw
pecking cold grass
did not hesitate
to rise at once from feeding. How it was fantasy, not for the strong,
concurrent uprush of wings,
but for the unison
hitch above the branches, a quieting pause where flight
had been, the lighting down
of various passerine, that hesitation redirecting
fullness to precision.
Like breathing in the vicinity
of a pile of soot.
Between some or another earlier point in time.
Between some or another person speaking
your name. For two things
to coincide they might have had the option
not to. Good-bye for the present;
see you later.
As if I could learn to use an abacus properly.
There are things I will never learn
people I will never meet
give rise to
as though to map time
by touch, arousingly. How flat the a-
where things just are; where nothing “gives rise”
to anything else. When
on the other hand
something not coinciding in time
does coincide in space—
—you can still call out
the old time
syllable of astonishment,
light of symmetry, and face each other
kindly in the circumstance, in the softly
fantasy might have,
the chorus conscience breaking from the poem,
backing out with unfamiliar grace, bending as grass to weather,
where the running together of circumstances
without apparent causal connection is…
you could cut the word later
out of idolater. You could find the word worshipper
in the earliest sense of later.
It is not unlike a salary, a salting of cause
As a hook crosses
the fish’s path
by bending that cross to a question.
Who can resist dragging a finger
sawdust settles, the lure of writing something
in something made of something else?
There is a surface from which to step on or off a train
The specific feeling of shoes
with extra thick soles
There is a book Narcissus left us like a thirst for reading
How many will fit its silhouette
How will it look
Since when are so many clicking
What is a profit in our image
What writing is on the wall
This is not a natural sign above a small canoe
still going across a lake
This Way and Otherwise
Otherwise I could begin to tell you what a meme is
how many birds were mobbing
This way (by hand) a sweater is knitted of wool
Otherwise you will have missed the chance to say what matters to you
This way’s the lost sense of one at a time
Otherwise the carrot soup goes perfectly still right up to the pepper on top
This way you can’t see who is pointing from a dock
Otherwise the manicule reminds you of a hand you actually know
This way the shell roars from your ear
Otherwise the ocean is not from where you think
This way the margin isn’t there
You had sometimes had the look
of a dark-eyed junco. I had liked it when you would find me
something out of the way
and old, how you put things to me
as simple questions, or made your lowliest actions
fair and esoteric,
but never with affectation, and never
to the point of stalling. Few things
of a human nature
enchant you anymore. I get it. Forbearance doesn’t
happen by itself. The piano can nurse
a judder for days,
but only if we practice.
Your music had always had
this way of falling off. Like a woodland walk, a faint decay,
disciplined trails. You had called it sweetness
and decay. Or on occasion
called it cider.You had always liked the taste,
if not the season. One,
Three cups on the table. Wherever the dark-eyed
junco flies away, sparse glints of snow
will shimmer the drooping
fir. Should the piano go back to what it was
before you made it play? It will be going nowhere different
the greater part of the day.
Are you at home.
And where is a conscious moment
for the one tree leaning at the sky.
For apple trees.
And where is that. Are you
a conscious moment. A woken tact
and practice. The furred sound of purple hyssop
bowed over by bees. What is the age
by which it comes to you.
A pack of last beech leaves.
Deep and airy gold, whole orders
whizzing to the ground. There is a home
away from home. Yesterday is carried
over the many hills of its hours
much as a letter
used to travel the dark
just out ahead of the sleeping receiver.
Is it not now like a simple pattern
you must summon the will to mind
and marry: a habit worn in
against each waste. Are you at home
in windows. Alone with
the incensed, roomy morning,
a sea-like darkness in the windows,
the sapphire life of particles
warming to dawn.
Sarah Gridley is an associate professor of English at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She is the author of three books of poetry: Weather Eye Open (University of California Press, 2005), Green is the Orator (University of California Press, 2010), and Loom (Omnidawn Publishing, 2013, Judge, Carl Phillips). She is currently working on a poetry manuscript titled, Insofar.