”Just Before”

At some point in the day, as
such, there was a pool. Of
stillness. One bent to brush
one’s hair, and, lifting
again, there it was, the
opening—one glanced away
from a mirror, and there, before
one’s glance reached the
street, it was, dilation and breath
—a name called out
in another’s yard—a breeze from
where—the log collapsing
inward of a sudden into its
hearth—it burning further,
feathery—you hear it but you
look up—yet there it
bloomed—an un-
learning—all byway no birthpain
—dew—sand falling onto sand
—a threat
from which you shall have
no reprieve—then the
reprieve—Some felt it was
freedom, or a split-second of
unearthliness—but no, it was far
from un-
earthly, it was full of
earth, at first casually full, for
some millennia, then
despertately full—of earth—of
copper mines and thick under-
leaf-vein sucking in of
light, and isinglass, and dusty
bloating their tree-cells with
life—and grass and weed and
tree intermingling in the
undersoil—& the
earth’s whole body round
filled with
uninterrupted continents of
burrowing—&earthwide miles of
tunnelling by the
mole, bark bettle, snail, spider,
worm—& ants making their
nationstate cloths of
soil, & planetwide the
chewing of insect upon leaf—
fish-mouth on krill,
the spinning of
coral, sponge, cocoon—this is
what entered the pool of
stopped thought—a chain
suspended in
the air of which
one link
for just an instant
turned to thought, then time,
then heavy time, then
air—a link of air!—& there was
no standing army anywhere,
& the sleeping bodies in the
doorways in all
the cities of
what was then just
planet earth
were lifted up out of their
bags, & they walked
away, & the sensation of empire
blew off the link
like pollen—just like that—off it
went—into thin air—& the
athletes running their
games in Delphi entered the
zone in the
long oval of the arena where
you run in
shadow, where the killer crowd
one sizzling hiss, where,
coming round that curve the
happens, & it all goes
inaudible, & the fatigue the
urgent sprint the lust
makes the you
fantastically alone, & the bees
thrum the hillsides, & all the
blood that has been
wasted—all of it—gathers into
deep coherent veins in the
and calls itself
history—& we make it make
& we are asked to call it

Jorie Graham.


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