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Jorie Graham


Manteau Three


In the fairy tale the sky
makes of itself a coat
because it needs you
to put it
on. How can it do this?
It collects its motes. It condenses its sound-
track, all the pyrric escapes, the pilgrimages
still unconsummated,
the turreted thoughts of sky it slightly liquefies
and droops, the hum of the yellowest day alive,

office-holders in their books, their corridors,
resplendent memories of royal rooms now filtered up — by smoke, by

must — it tangles up into a weave,
tied up with votive offerings — laws, electricity —
what the speakers let loose from their tiny eternity,
what the empty streets held up as offering
when only a bit of wind
litigated in the sycamores,

oh and the flapping drafts unfinished thoughts
raked out of air,
and the leaves clawing their way after deep sleep set in,
and all formations — assonant, muscular,
chatty hurries of swarm (peoples, debris before the storm) —
things that grew loud when the street grew empty,
and breaths that let themselves be breathed
to freight a human argument,
and sidelong glances in the midst of things, and voice — yellowest
day alive — as it took place
above the telegram,
above the hand cleaving the open-air to cut its thought,
hand flung

towards open doorways into houses where
den-couch and silver tray
itch with inaction — what is there left now
to believe — the coat? — it tangles up a good tight weave,
windy yet sturdy,
a coat for the ages —
one layer a movie of bluest blue,
one layer the war-room mappers and their friends
in trenches
also blue,
one layer market-closings and one
hydrangeas turning blue
just as I say so,
and so on,
so that it flows in the sky to the letter,
you still sitting in the den below
not knowing perhaps that now is as the fairy tale
exactly, (as in the movie), foretold,
had one been on the right channel,
(although you can feel it alongside, in the house, in the food, the umbrellas,
the bicycles),
(even the leg muscles of this one grown quite remarkable),

the fairy tale beginning to hover above — onscreen fangs, at the desk
one of the older ones paying bills —
the coat in the sky above the house not unlike celestial fabric,
a snap of wind and plot to it,
are we waiting for the kinds to go to sleep?
when is it time to go outside and look?
I would like to place myself in the position
of the one suddenly looking up
to where the coat descends and presents itself,
not like the red shoes in the other story,
red from all we had stepped in,
no, this the coat all warm curves and grassy specificities,
intellectuals also there, but still indoors,
standing up smokily to mastermind,
theory emerging like a flowery hat,
there, above the head,
descending,


while outside, outside, this coat —
which I desire, which I, in the tale,
desire — as it touches the dream of reason
which I carry inevitably in my shoulders, in my very carriage, forgive me,
begins to shred like this, as you see it do, now,
as if I were too much in focus making the film shred,
it growing very hot (as in giving birth) though really
it being just evening, the movie back on the reel,
the sky one step further down into the world but only one step,
me trying to pull it down, onto this frame,
for which it seems so fitting,
for which the whole apparatus of attention had seemed to prepare us,
and then the shredding beginning
which sounds at first like the lovely hum
where sun fills the day to its fringe of stillness
but then continues, too far, too hard,
and we have to open our hands again and let it go, let it rise up
above us,

incomprehensible,
clicker still in my right hand,
the teller of the story and the shy bride,
to whom he was showing us off a little perhaps,
leaning back into their gossamer ripeness,
him touching her storm, the petticoat,
the shredded coat left mid-air, just above us,
the coat in which the teller's plot
entered this atmosphere, this rosy sphere of hope and lack,

this windiness of middle evening,
so green, oh what difference could it have made
had the teller needed to persuade her
further — so green
this torn hem in the first miles — or is it inches? — of our night,
so full of hollowness, so wild with rhetoric ....

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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