Jorie Graham

The Bird that Begins it
March 13, 2012 Graham Jorie

The Bird that Begins it


In the world-famous night which is already flinging away bits of dark but not

quite yet

there opens

a sound like a

rattle, then a slicing in which even the

blade is

audible, and then again, even though trailing the night-melt, suddenly, again, the

rattle. In the

night of the return of day, of next-on time, of

shape name field

with history flapping

all over it

invisible flags or wings or winds—(victory being exactly

what it says,

the end of night),

(it is not right to enter time it mutters as its tatters

come loose)—in the

return I

think I

am in this body

I really only think it—this body lying here is

only my thought,

the flat solution

to the sensation/question


who is it that is listening, and who is it that is wanting still

to speak to you

out of the vast network

of blooded things,

a huge breath-held, candle-lit, whistling, planet-wide, still blood-flowing,

howling-silent, sentence-driven, last-bridge-pulled-up-behind city of

the human, the expense-

column of place in

place humming….To have

a body. A borderline

of ethics and reason. Here comes the first light in leaf-shaped coins.

They are still being flung at our feet. We could be Judas no

problem. Could be

the wishing-well.  Right

here in my open

mouth. The light can toss its wish right down this spinal


can tumble in

and buy a wakened self….What is the job today my being

asks of

light. Please

tell me my job. It cannot be this headless incessant crossing

of threshold, it cannot be

more purchasing of more

good, it cannot be more sleeplessness—the necklaces of

minutes being tossed

over and over my

shoulders. The snake

goes further into the grass as

first light hits.

The clay

in the soil gleams where dew withdraws. Something we don’t want

any more of

flourishes as never

before. I

feel the gravity

as I sit up

 like a leaf growing from the stalk of the unknown

still lying there behind me where sleep just was. Daylight

crackles on the sill. Preparation

of day


underfoot. Across

the sill, the hero unfolding in the new light, the

girl who would

not bear the

god a

son, the mother who ate her own grown

flesh, the god

who in exchange

for Time gave as many of his children as need be

to the

abyss. It is


The human does not fit in it.

Jorie Graham is the author of numerous collections of poetry, most recently Sea Change (Ecco, 2008), Never (2002), Swarm (2000), and The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994, which won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.  Her latest book is Place: New Poems, out on April 24, 2012, from HarperCollins. Graham has also edited two anthologies, Earth Took of Earth: 100 Great Poems of the English Language (1996) and The Best American Poetry 1990.  Her many honors include a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.  She has taught at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is currently the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University. She served as a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1997 to 2003.