From Ocho 11 (2007): Mary Walker Graham

Here is a box of fish marked tragedy. Is it different from the dream in which your alter ego kills the girl? You are the same, and everyone knows it, whether tracing the delicate lip of the oyster shell, or sharpening your blade in the train car. The marvelous glint is the same. Though you think you sleep, you wake and walk into the hospital, fingering each instrument, opening each case with care. The scales fall away with a scraping motion. You are the surgeon and you are the girl. Whether you lie like feathers on the pavement, or coolly pocket your equipment, and walk away. . . You are the same; and you are the same. You only sleep to enter the luminous cave.

When I say pit, I'm thinking of a peach's. As in James and the Giant, as in: the night has many things for a girl to imagine. The way the flesh of the peach can never be extricated, but clings — the fingers follow the juice. The tongue proceeds along the groove. Dark peach: become a night cavern — an ocean's inside us — a balloon for traveling over. When I said galleons of strong arms without heads, I meant natives, ancient. I meant it takes me a long time to get past the hands of men; I can barely get to their elbows. How a twin bed can become an anchor. How a balloon floating up the stairwell can become a person. Across the sea of the hallway then, I floated. I hung to the fluorescent fixtures in the bathroom, I saw a decapitated head on the toilet. I'll do anything to keep from going in there. I only find the magazines under the mattress, the Vaseline in the headboard cabinet. A thought so hot you can't touch it. A pit. A broken jaw. A fever.


I Remember...

I Remember

If your I in the world has
life in the world, against collective
masks which are ramparts to
be pushed past, there is little to
remember but luck; even
anguish vindicated, even

discomfort blessed in its
wretched restlessness. You
were young & heedless then,
your I not noticing mirages
you were forced to splash
around in— brittle lips,
skins, faces, ointments

applied to pixilate against
the integrity of the real. Your
I was joined by others of
your ilk, possessed by
visions, narratives, stoned
on history’s absolute rocks.

Now, I remember how I’ve
been charmed— thunder &
lightning only equipped to
disperse the right battalions,
fighting in empty space for
the non-existent; heartiness

of nudes, on/off webbed walls—


From "I Will Out": "I See the Lines"

I See the Lines

Mine or someone else’s, lines
do disturb by just sitting there,
however you attempt to jounce
them into action outside their

accepted sphere— yet, I follow lines
out, year by year as I get older,
even if “towards” means nothing
but some vantage point I’ll

never see. When you or I read
lines the right way, everything
which means is tinted by
a fiery glow, against
the inscrutable nothingness

of things bald, if the fire were
false I wouldn’t touch it, but it isn’t-


From "I Will Out"

I Will Out

Strictly mechanical,
what propels us
towards recognitions
of what I am, &
the question, why
I must continue—

you either find
yourself continuing
or you don’t, against
or with internal
temporal currents,
exterior space
arrayed around—

as I continue,
the I which will
out has qualities
of being salvaged
far from expectation—

moves, breathes, directs
what currents it can,
as I will out, surprise
you dithering in
it, them, always—

 I See the Sunset

If you have lived
sans clarity, you may
be drawn to pretenses
against sunset being
what it is—

If you think at odd
angles, you can pretend
depth will manifest
sans effort, endowment
rich as gold—

but depth & clarity, as
endowments, can accrue
only to a mind edged
with clouded darkness
encompassing ends—

behind ends, processes
of decay, degradation, dire
plummets of stomachs
under dire judgments
beyond our kens—

then, lifts upwards,
arbitrary fits/starts,
something/someone judges
you real, towards
clear two-sided passages—


RIP Robert


Introduction: Trilogy

The Main Line, a clump of suburbs and business interests outside Philadelphia, would seem to be an odd locale for explorations of, and interrogations into, the very fabric and potentialities of poetic language, all under the aegis of the clamped-down monotony of a major national and global recession. It’s not just that there is no rich Main Line arts tradition; the Main Line is so resolutely about business, materiality, and the maintenance of surfaces against possibilities of depth, and determination which amounts to sangfroid to regard everything else from a stance of laissez faire complacence (edged with naive mistrust and condescension), that moving forward here with an ambitious aesthetic agenda is a “far be it” scenario. If I have managed to do so, its because something of the Main Line, an ambiance of desolation-within-implacability and despair beneath contrived assurance, has managed to touch me, and take me (and my Apparition Poems series) to a new place, where a novel relationship has been forged and consummated. Recessions, I have learned, have an enervating tendency to take those with sensitive minds and hearts right to the edge of deliverance, transcendence, and grace, and then push them back into the cloistered cubicle from which they began. So has my time been on the Main Line. The subtext of all the pushes and pulls has been a plummet into the revelations of age and experience— that the curtains of youth and innocence have been yanked back (with some force) to reveal a human landscape, starting from the Main Line, of corruption, fraudulence, and unending duplicity. El Diablo en musica is the flatted fifth; in language, human voices with every intention of enacting pantomimes and staging the fullness of empty lives, set in place for evil, arbitrary purposes, have assailed here who is left of those with an honest purpose.

Trilogy begins and finishes from this set of concerns and purposes— the Main Line as microcosm (for America, for the West), the evanescence of transcendence and the transcendental impulse, and, past that, the evanescence of existence itself, and of humanity. Formally, Trilogy maintains the signature elements of Apparition Poems and Cheltenham— internal rhymes, assonances, alliteration, and head-split gist-phrases still constitute my solution for raising free-verse to the level of Keats, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Milton. Because Trilogy is being written and released in 2014, less than halfway through a decade heretofore undecided by anything but a devastating recession, my hope is that the Teens may yet emerge as a decent time for major high art consonant poetry and literature. Oddly, and as many of us did not expect on the evidence of the Aughts, it looks like any advances in English-language poetry must transpire from within the United States; entropy has overtaken the UK, and UK poetry, to such a pervasive extent that contributions from Britain seem unlikely. The connection between Philly and Chicago in the Aughts was fortuitous, and has remained so in the Teens— if Philly-Chicago becomes the hub of substantial aesthetic progress for poetry in the Teens, and a kind of anchoring conjunction, it would be both a positive and a grateful event. But who knows. Trilogy was born out of the arid, and aridity— the specific form and function of psycho-spiritual aridity on the Main Line. Its projected fecundity, over a long expanse of time, is a contradiction I am happy to have engendered.