133.1: Grace Marie Grafton:: Gilded & Ghosts & Moving present & Stop, dead 133

Last week, many of us writers were huddled in the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, trying to stay warm in the midst of a snow storm, sane in the midst of the wonderful and overwhelming AWP conference. For three days, I sat at at the TOA table in the book fair talking about our journal to old friends and new acquaintances. One of the more common questions was about the origins of our journal's name, which comes from these lines in Henry V: "Consideration, like an angel, came / and whipped the offending Adam out of him." Normally when I envision this, I think of consideration striking with a whip. But, as I read this week's poems by Grace Marie Grafton, I find myself envisioning something else—a whipping around. As one line turns to the next, Grafton spins us from one image to the next, one world to the next: "Nothing was said to her, it was small town fear / Where the disc had scooped earth away from roots / During the war and then Korea, her alcoholic cousin mustered out." We find ourselves on rapidly shifting ground, moving from a small town to the act of digging to watching a family member prepare for war. Each poem's collection of images accumulate into a dizzying, single entity. Our ability to make sense of each poem is strained to a breaking point, mimicking our daily challenge to make sense of our worlds. A challenge that Grafton reminds us we will spend "[t]he rest of life to untangle." Andrew Wessels


Red thread pulled out of muslin lays bare

Take down the curtains, satin brocade, hips thighs

Babylon as setting sun, luxury unto beaded bra

Embellishment purple lays on evening’s sky

Watered silk, tabby cat lounging in matron’s lap

Call it ramshackle territory, edges, comb

Lost her hair to scarlet fever but kept it in a box

Numinous signal in the gated mystery

Maximum courage, major babel, all fall down

Turmeric on the toast, evening cliché of autumn

Pay the penalty for peddling inferior goods

Where terrace engendered the embroidered earth

Large-breasted, flat-nosed, majarajah from the train

She told her friend about harmonies in synesthesia

A head a skull in the proper grammar

We cannot leave out mud, we’d like to, the dull

Proud dirt suffered, endured

What is the most amorous color? Not red, blended blue

Spontaneous can’t be magnified nor ignored

Rise, sink, spread, the hands, knees, wedding


Irrigation was a fact of her youth as were plums

Vulnerable skin or is it mind? Door in the forehead

Blandishments about hair-do’s so as to join The Women’s Club

Family fabric, Grandpa’s low brow

Climbing trees, eucalyptus, oak, glimpses of Mother’s face

But walls on that stone house were regulation thick

Nothing was said to her, it was small town fear

Where the disc had scooped earth away from roots

During the war and then Korea, her alcoholic cousin mustered out

She didn’t know the meaning of the word: pavane

Grandfather’s Studebaker, upholstery prickly on bare legs

She had no expectations to dwindle or grow thin

There were many reasons not to wear skirts. Nevertheless

She loved learning that chisel means cheat

Her dad, his ubiquitous shovel, the mud, the pipes

Broken flint, arrowheads the plow turned up

Does no good to think about it now, it was the tableau

Looking for the term that means: to draw the curtain

Adolescence descended like sticks, stones and blur

A cogent sister, an opaque parent

Wrap the criminal body in Grandma’s brocade, hide it in the trunk

The rest of life to untangle

Moving present

A place quivering in the brilliant eye without containment

Why hold back a more chocolatey effervescence?

Unaware of how snobs like to hob-nob about

The mind uncovers details, the robin’s jeering laugh

Mother-of-pearl confesses itself to be second-rate

Blossoms, loving profusion, plum petals’ noon

Coulottes can be charming, starched little by little

In orchard straight rows wind drives new twigs crazy

Dazzle of tricycle and afternoon dapple on lake’s laugh

Wait! don’t wait! possessive pronoun tossed aside

No skirts allowed, due to spills, due to panties

Sacrificial awe threaded through scents of spring

Ignorant of Timbuktu and school standards but: bicycle soon

Could be kept, memorially, as the mind plays with toys

Whirr of loop-de-loops the salient American paragraph

Uncanny sun whose course seems much like kneeling

Stop, dead

On the skin of the finger, a tiny break swelling

Marching through the draw, cows create a trail

Remember the tree against the bare hill, old oak

Lens, fluent scanner of landscape perfections

Camaraderie of twig, leaf ‘n light on bark prismatic

In its own way, something that’s completely useless

Deduce the link oak branches have with synapses in her brain

Repose, involuntarily architectural, her fatigue

Vocabulary adds a new language, maybe Hungarian

Night diminishes what long grass can speak

No human says the same word for rainbow

No hotel can provide the music of the solstice

In the same mental room as sky-water, rainbow trout

Quarrel accumulates cargo, ascends energy

Boisterous bootlegger, keeping the back door open