Jorie Graham

Untitled One

A curtain rose. I felt an obligation.

I tried to feel the thing that blossoms in me,

here in my seat, assigned,

the whole world intelligently lit

there up in front of me.

I tried to feel the untitled thing that blossoms in me.

The abnegation that doesn’t stutter, not at all, not once.

Or no, that stutters once and once only.

What the days are a rehearsal for: breathe in, breathe out.

What the held breath is ventriloqual for,

the eyes quickly shut then scribbled

                                    back open

again—rasping martyrdom—

the glance once again shouldering the broadcast out there, the loud

                                                                                       flat broadcast,

the glance ambushed once again by the apparent warmth of the


I blinked. Tomorrow came. Nothing came true.

Birds scattered and the minutes clucked, single-file.

Daggering, talkative, the breaths ministered to nothingness.

A tight bond, theirs. An hysterical love. Nevermind the things said—

those robberies. I love you, they said. Or in a broader sense

this example suggests … I tried to feel the days go on without me.

Walking in the park, a small tin of shoe-polish

nestled in the grass. From over the trees

the names of people were called-out via loudspeaker.

Then there were numbers: the score, incessant coarse ribbon, floated by


then smeared itself all over the sky . . .

The small hole inside I’m supposed to love:

I tried to house it—no, I tried to gorge it.

I hovered round it with sentences to magnify the drama.

I cloaked it with waiting. I whispered don’t be afraid

and petitioned it with rapture—the plumed thing—the cross-dressed

lingering—dramatic—all my thin secrets giddy,

all my whispers free-spending … Tomorrow came.

Slowly it scattered. Then it came again—first fragile, eyes closed,

then, peeling away its cellophane, eyes striating open,

it did it again—and each time so easy; first blurring a bit, then,

                                                                            nearing 5,

the sparrows ascribble, the magnet rising, tomorrow

starting to strip itself clean again of itself. But casually. Tirelessly.

And without innuendo, friend. Just oh so plucky.

Peeling the minutes off, the little white worms.

Growing whiter. Quavering-up to a strong fine whiteness.

High varnish. Yet noncommittal. Giving thanks—or so it

seemed. Then backing away. Unexpurgated. Sort of dis-


Then, again, tomorrow came. Never a chorus, only the hero.

And tomorrow, and tomorrow.

One after another, up into the floodlights.

I tried to feel the story grow, name by name,

one at a time. My eyes grew heavy, I could feel my attention slipping.

I tried to shoulder the whole necklace of accidents.

I waited for them all to reappear at the end.

To take a bow. All at once. All together. That I might remember.

Jorie Graham

 Jorie  Graham

Jorie Graham is the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University.  She is the author of numerous collections of poetry, inluding Sea Change (Ecco, 2008) and The Dream of the Unified Field, which won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

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