Exchange Poem by Jorie Graham


You. You at the door a crumpled thing when I open
surprised. Sing, you hiss. Prosecute, sentence, waving your thin not-arms like dollar
bills, your bewildering moldy skin — one or two of you are you, are you a god now,
bony, wing-beaten down, smaller than
ever, not dead as you should be but not
alive either as you indicate mumbling almost falling in on
your clawed feet — I still have desire — you float — at my
small door — me inside — me inside life. Are you newborn now, I
ask. Are you remnant. Why. Why are there moneylenders
you say swatting me away when I ask can I help, growing more
crumbled, but more than just cloth — all feather,
burlap, beak, fingergrip, all edge and cling. A thing not
formed or not divided yet. Pre-conception. Just at the threshold. Almost falling in your
uneven crouching. Your chest a pulsation. A languishment that will not

die. What is die. Now there is not blood on the earth
anymore. We disappear. We pixilate. Races or places, is it.
Which? Remember what it was to carry your load? Your you. That
weight. Wondrous it was. At intervals light-struck. Silence and then the
cutting of water, sleeping audible, thrown about by breath, keeping a sharp lookout —
here's where free choice vanished, here rights, here the
real meaning of the word — (you choose) — consequence, capital, commodity, con-
sumption. Community? Come here says time. Just try to
find it, the here. Such a good game to keep you
occupied for now. The rest of the now. It's going to be a long
time. Why are you here. What are they lending you.
How can it be loaned. What is a loan. The changers.
Who gets to keep it. No one gets to keep it. No one. None of it.
What is it. The money changers. What can

you change it into. What else do you
want the things to become. But it won't stay still as
currency either. It will be changed again.
Shape-shifting and all the other tiny adjustments. Currency
manipulation — feel it — all those other
hands on it, each with its own need, having
held it — grasped, changed, folded, tucked, handed — oh
look it becomes virtual — the fingerprint is lifted off,
its little stain — no one's need is on it any-
more. It's clean. It has never been, and never again
will be, touched. The looping ledger of the fingerprint's
wish. I signed my name to this. Did you. In the hush. At the center.
Among the closed shutters at the height of the day I
signed. I clenched the pen and then my dream. It flowed. No one is

ever at home. I don't know why. Had been told to live by any means
possible. Did. Beyond, the sea. You could feel this period coming to
an end. All of it. A bomb went off, legs went off, means went
off, blew off, like gossamer — nothing stalled — you couldn't get it to
stall — seemed painted-on but it was not, was sleeping, reality finally was
sleeping — so deeply — you couldn't wake it up again, you couldn't
wake yourself again — it rained — time sputtered now and then like a regurgitation
of space. It's a jail, light says, but it looks like just being
lost, full of the things we needed to learn, us ready to step up and offer
our lungs, intake and out, change me we say. We want to be
identified, written-in, collected. Worth me up. Give me my true
value ...
But still I have to bring this to you in these
words, cracked glaze all over it, little holes over it, belief drilled through,
self, that boutique, gone under, such dark windows, history arrested ...

History arrested. How is that possible. It flowed. It flowed without us, us on it if we
could catch a ride sometimes. How do you live in this end. I look at you. You have been
through. Your war is done. I try to squint it in. Do you really want to
begin again. Is that why you're here. I feel I could count your
fingers, each hair left on you, each thread of skin, each crease. Four or five times you
cast a glance on us. But then it's done. Your passing by us now a
buzzing of flies. You stand at the window and the song begins. We don't know
what to do with it, the moon, that monster, the fame and the thirst,
the night out there a shirt rolled up to reveal what dusk had
hid — a murky heart, a love that would never be replaced.
But they are still there on the steps — the money changers. The steps
of evening rise. They want you to exchange. That is the sacrament. Why does he
keep throwing them out.
Day after day. Forever. Listen to me, you say, you are going off into
thought, it is not a real road. Take yourself

off the road. He is and is not but he is. And
you are always in the holy place. Because
just being in it makes it holy. Uphold it. Linger. Be eternal for this
instant. Lodge in. I cannot say in what. Have spent a lifetime saying in. In flow,
in promise, rich, in haste experiment crowd season in bias gnawing at
hope invisible in time standing in it confounded tongue in my mouth about to
curl up, speak, promise, taste promise, laugh at the ignorance, cherish
ignorance — don't leave — this is where I've arrived — don't
slip away, the reverse of the watching and waiting is finally here, wasn't mine, wasn't
me speaking either. Not anymore. This is that dream. The darling of
failure. No identification. All impending and then the now strikes. It is
unbreakable. It is. You must believe me. I want to be here and also there where you
receive this but I can't. That's the whole story. I will never know
what is there to know. You will not be changed. You must believe.

Jorie Graham

Jorie Graham

New York City, New York
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