Grace Marie Grafton

The children are lithe and descend one after another after another
          J.J. Jarrett

We were children at the tree’s gate,
we said to each other, ‘Run fast so the ogre
don’t get you’ and we entered the tree’s secret
chamber. We had come out of our mother’s
secrets, we knew the importance of invisibility
and questions, of swings and daring and fun
that’s infected with fear. The brief hours
we were excused from Time, that’s what we’ve
been after ever since. And yet we did not want
to escape from our parents’ bodies, the ogre
wore the hood of our helplessness, did we
remember when we were ‘just little’ and woke
up without finding our favorite blanket? To
learn bereavement. Woke up cold with the
indifferent starlight in its rule-less state
penetrating the window next to our crib.
A long time crying until Father came through
the doorway, picked up Blanket from the floor
and gave us warmth and body-light.

          the quality of being untruthful
          a tendency to lie
          a lie

She told me she knew how to correct all her mistakes. She told me she could rid my house of rats. She told me that she won her grammar school jumprope contest four years in a row. And was a spelling bee champion. And that book, about the spelling bee winner who eventually fathomed the origin of all language – its inception – well, she told me that book was based on her and, though she didn’t want to talk about it, she understood the meaning of life. Not just her own life, but ALL life. And it had to do with the origins of language because maybe (she said she KNEW, I said I couldn’t be sure either that I knew or that she KNEW) life was inextricably intertwined with consciousness. And that not just humans have consciousness, but everything – dewdrops, rabbits, dragonflies, rocks – has consciousness. Therefore life. She said that, if she put her mind to it, she could discipline her body to become an Olympic pole vaulting winner. But mostly, she confided, she just wanted to be a cello player. The cello-playing equivalent of Kokopele who played the world into being with his spirit flute. But she said she wasn’t actually going to do that because the cello was just too cumbersome to lug around. She had to take the bus and people complained.

After reading Bob Hicok

Day hasn’t been born, I wake at four A M
but in the absence of thought, remember
to look for the early morning stars I seldom
see. Gaps in the space outside my window.
Window that provides a veil between me
and where the neighborhood deer bed down.
I could go out, a shadow, to spy
on them, doe and twin spotted fawns,
but I still hold sleep in my lap, it’s black
and I want my dreams to tell me
what they found in the detritus of my
mind, take care not to dismiss too soon
the awe-filled sight of sand dunes shifting,
sifting sunlight into fold on fold, some kind of
message about art’s true skin that I can’t make
out, can only perceive from a precarious
angle. Or else from too near the ocean,
surf threatening to separate me from all I
know and still want to know. I want to know
how to get back to sleep, wouldn’t mind
returning to the bearable danger of revolving
sand and sloshing water, but I know I won’t enter
that dream again. Instead I’ll dream of a jerk
at the campground who’ll interpret the absence of
walls as an invitation to come sit at my picnic
table and talk trash.





Grace Marie Grafton’s most recent book, Jester, was published by Hip Pocket Press. She is the author of six collections of poetry. Her poems won first prize in the Soul Making contest (PEN women, San Francisco), in the annual Bellingham Review contest, Honorable Mention from Anderbo and Sycamore Review, and have twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Poems recently appear in Sin Fronteras, The Cortland Review, Canary, CA Quarterly, Askew, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Basalt and Mezzo Cammin.