James Grabill


Where sentences emerge from the Earth of grandmothers
there’re sound, then gone. They’re projected in waves 
spreading through air in sacramental breath
that breaks at the coast the way it does in cells.

Sentences resound in time within hundreds of thousands
of individuals around each act of a person, allowing it to be.

Where you have an ant on the counter, you have hundreds
of thousands in the community behind her. In all directions, 
highways stretching out converge in the task at hand.

In the task at hand, it’s sound matter in the midst of hundreds 
of thousands, each in the midst of hundreds of thousands 
in every task done, in mathematical resonance 
where numbers exist on complex frequencies.

Where a number may go, does it resonate with joy over being alive? 

Live long enough to free your mind, in what may take all your life.

The sound of one drop, one lift, in the midst of hundreds
of thousands can be one, but never one alone, the rock 
of the tuning fork struck, dark joy from lower undulations
of health in the midst of loss crashing to the bottom floor
of water seething, streaming back
into the ocean through unbreakable sand.


For the long day’s flooding across parking lots and the plains, 
absorbing milestones and the smaller towns, coyotes loping 
along the edge of belief and bridges suspended across rivers 
linking hemispheres of a city, sunlight prisming through dew 
on cables as if they were vibrating with chords no one’s heard,
swamping glass towers with egalitarianism between the species.

Still, calibrated wealth-bought hurling-out vehicular Detroit
was held secure all night under smoldering sodium pentothal
security lights casting their pall of milky maw that rescinds
Zoroastrian calendars all legal-like for solar parallel familiars
retrofit for urgency with concentration on wealth as a sport.

Call this Detroit, where either you pay big for water or lose it,
or The Towers of Ambrosium, land of manufactured miracles 
as wealth touches lightning to instantaneous pneumatic tubes 
delivering money up to the head office where the vacuum’s safe 
in glass, with no impoverished arms reaching in a locked factory
for the red and black master switch, with no adopted paratactic
restlessness roaring when death climbs the ladder from the Aztec
palace with its gold flasks loaded for the trajectory into nothing,
nothing above the hard rungs of the ladder, nothing to see below.

For this is the crawl of the garden spider, weaving into gusts
on a break from swallowing 100s of years of children’s winter
with tens of thousands of ballistic ministers blazing in pulpits
decrying sins on a dark Mobius night in which fertility primes.
And this is the photo-electric nightcrawler reaching across dirt
to touch another, to secure the down-dwelling lift of the future.
As we live, we’re held by waves expanding from all that’s here,
what happened over our lives, and much we could never know.


This warning may contain unexpurged
forward thrust liable to burst pipe
organ tiers out of protestant pinecones
swollen with amotorized replacement
ground-mowing parts, acetylene blanched
ahandle in amnesic high court marshes.

Associated exploit-dirging may run plush
with Etruscan crowed airs as has been
physician-observed and judged justified
in immaculate sling tailing anaconda
gone armless from the era before words.

This warning may bleed without notice
in gongs at face range if held yonder
as balks cognito buttered stained-glass
Freud PR yearning through tit busts out
leopard-paused magna cum obsidian ruby.

Noticed may be further inside conception 
with a lotta later-day perched doves
that dive head-long into the fermented
protectorate hrah gestating in untoward
Magna Carta with oyster-floor Bertha
roasting in a bed that promulgates 
fluorescent flow joints flowering skirts.


Time-space melts over time
and old-boned 360° Catholicism 
sheds another set 
of medieval iron manacles 

after the scold’s bridle has appeared 
on a manikin in the Lion’s Store picture window 
not for sale for any price, the bridle, other 
than your impoverishment chewing cardboard 
as archaic impulses surface from someplace below 
whoever’s still sleeping in the stone tower 
alongside the intrinsic value of all the species
under the Liberty Bell rocking with planetary rotations 

shedding names of the presence within cells 
seeking otherworldly forgiveness of the trinity 
without hope vanishing faster than fire ants carrying yields 
home to the queen cradled in a cool city of soil
under solar-cooked swings of photodynamic weather 

inseparable from the whole and its future of hand-placed stone 

in neural reception that beings relied on 
when they co-evolved with what rare impulses 
that would have settled on being held back 

saying yes or no the more vulnerable people are likely to follow 
concentric conventions in the greater undone

now that we’re talking 
and have seen ourselves 
sitting at the foot of the totem other species.

In the long story, civilization as we’ve known it, with towns of slumber
and repositories of knowledge, is pressured by more immense forces 
than the matter on hand or cells making bodies. The brain replicates 
its surroundings as the indomitable future touches down, sharpening 
its zither pick on the atmosphere. We’ve watched short implying tall, 
and seen cold run out of hot, where the mother lives within the father 
and to give is to hold onto by knowing. The invisible hand may apply 
for a position on the faculty in these flush surroundings, but a spoon 
in an unfinished bowl of gratitude can never be stolen by a roaming 
organization of agnosia. Suddenly the archaic chance just steps up 
fixing a bonnet around baby-born Earth. The way green’s the power 
in blood, learning’s unfinished, where vision grows subtle and bold. 

Pulses begin to live when the sun rises with fireball rings of promises  
spreading through the body carried by the mother. It may have been 
the surrender of yields late in the summer that first bonded our loads, 
at the compass core, live. The ocean unmasked, so trying continued. 
Later in the evening, stained-glass Mary was seen riding her donkey 
into biblical Bethlehem for more than two millennia. Once medieval 
impregnation conceives, the total approaches three hundred million, 
if the count runs until now. Summer clover superconducts anonymity, 
but the face of the jaguar has vanished forever from the night window 
in the small kitchen. It’s likely that this cosmos contains existence 
we’re not about to discern, not now, not this century or millennium.

James Grabill’s poems appear online at Calibanonline, Unlikely Stories, Terrainonline, The Decadent Review, and others. Forthcoming work: in The Hong Kong Review, Weber: The American West, SurVision, & others. Books: four from Lynx House Press including Poem Rising Out of the Earth (recipient of the Oregon Book Award, 1995), Sea-Level Nerve: I & II (2014 & 2015, Wordcraft of OR), Branches Shaken by Light as well as Reverberations of the Genome (2020 & 2021, Cyberwit, India), Eye of the Spiral (The Uncollected Press, 2022), Stray Dogs & Irreversible Cars (Atmosphere Press, forthcoming), and others. For years, he taught writing and global issues relative to sustainability.
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