Self-Portrait as Apollo and Daphne
by Jorie Graham
Issue no. 101 (Winter 1986)
The truth is this bad been going on for a long time during
they both wanted it to last.
You can still bear them in that phase, the north and
south laid up against each other, constantly erasing
each minute with each minute.
You can still bear them, there, just prior to daybreak,
the shrill cheeps and screeches of the awakening thousands
hysterical, for miles, in all the directions,
and there the whoo whoo of the nightfeeders, insolvent baseline,
shorn, almost the sound of thin air…
Or there where the sun picks up on the bits of broken glass
throughout the miles of grass for just a fraction of an instant
(thousands of bits) at just one angle, quick, the evidence, the landfill,
then gone again, everything green, green…
How he wanted, though, to possess her, to nail the erasures
like a heat on her all day once the daysounds set in, like
a long analysis.
The way she kept slipping away was this: can you really
see me, can you really know I’m really who…
His touchings a rhyme she kept interrupting (no one
believes in that version anymore she whispered, no one
can hear it anymore, tomorrow, tomorrow,
like the different names of those girls
all one girl)… But how long could it
He kept after her like sunlight (it’s not what you think, she said)
frame after frame of it (it’s not what you think you think)
like the prayer that numbers are praying (are they ascending are they descending?)
He kept after her in the guise of the present,
minute after minute (are they ascending are they are they?)
until they seemed to quicken and narrow (like footprints
piling up, like footprints all blurred at the end of, at the scene of…)
until now is forever he whispered can’t you get it to open,
present tense without end, slaughtered motion, kingdom of
the shards caught here and there—what did you do
before? or will you forgive me? or say
that you’ll love me for
ever and ever
(is it a squeal of brakes is it a birthcry?)
(let x equal forever he whispered let y let y…)
as opposed to that other motion which reads Cast it upon the ground
and it shall become a serpent (and Moses fled before it),
which reads Put forth thy hand and take it by the tail
and it was a rod in his hand again—
That’s when she stopped she turned her face to the wind she shut her eyes—
She stopped she turned,
she would not be the end towards which he was ceaselessly tending,
she would not give shape to his hurry by being its destination,
it was wrong this progress, it was a quick iridescence
on the back of some other thing, unimaginable, a flash on the wing of…
The sun would rise and the mind would rise
and the will would rise and the eyes—The eyes—:
the whole of the story like a transcript of sight,
of the distance between them, the small gap he would close.
She would stop, there would be no chase scene, she would be who,
The counting went on all round like a thousand birds
each making its own wind—Who would ever add them up—
and what would the sum become, of these minutes, each flapping
its wings each after a perch,
each one with its call unanswered, unanswered,
each one signalling separately into the end of the daybreak,
the great screech of the instants, the pile-up,
the one math of hope, the prayer nowhere is praying,
frame after frame, collision of tomorrows—
No she would go under she would leave him in the freedom
his autograph all over it, slipping, trying to notch it,
there in the day with him now, his day, but altered,
part of the view not one of the actors, she thought,
not one of the instances, not one of the examples,
but the air the birds call in,
the air their calls going unanswered marry in,
the calls the different species make, cross-currents, frettings,
and the one air holding the screeching separateness—
each wanting to change, to be heard, to have been changed—
and the air the air all round them neither full nor empty
but holding them, holding them, untouched, untransformed.
If you enjoyed this poem, why not read …
- “Mirrors” by Jorie Graham, published in issue no. 75 (Spring 1979)?
And here is a rather amazing live interpretation of Brian Eno’s landmark Music For Airports from 1978. It’s like listening to a new piece.
I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day
I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.
I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the color of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.
I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,
and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.
Pablo Neruda ~ Love Sonnet XI