Historians excavate stone tablets of dead languages. Religious leaders preach creation stories. Biologists study evolution. Psychologist and sociologists look into the human mind… To the immortal, they all seem to belabor the same question but never reveal the whole truth.
Leaving this trail of inconclusive
trembling bits of some
Was it true, this time, the rumor?
The wherefore of our being here?
Does it come true in the retelling?
And truer in
(“Prayer” by Jorie Graham)
The immortal finds a pail of moist clay—
Let that coolness envelop you for a moment. This clay has been dug out of the creek that you now hear trickling nearby. Can you feel it’s grains beneath your fingers? The ripple of fish, the rush of the current as the winter rains fall, the pecking of birds at stones? Let it’s life wash over you, let it guide you to its true form as we mold it under our hands.
Dust to dust. Ashes to ashes. It is not the sand of the Arabian Desert, not the mud of Welsh marshlands, not the flaky slate of the mountains, but a firm, rich, rooted sediment from years of glaciers and flows that rest beneath you feet. Yet, it is the same earth. The grains and water molecules continuously moving and cycling, taking new forms, falling back into the Earth, taken up and thrown back down endlessly. In this manner, it is the same soil; the same soil the immortal touched millennia ago, the same soul from the beginning of time, even if it has changed in appearance.
A book of poetry lay open, it’s words escaping into the air we breathe.
…Yes, the speaking subject in
to rip the veil. Thought ‘if I bring my pen to bear inside something
will rip.’ But what? We write.
(“The Taken-Down God” by Jorie Graham)
We continuously tended to the vase, smoothing, dampening where needed. Then, when the urn is ready; when you are ready…put impressions into the shaped clay.
The immortal writes their story; the clay’s story; our story; the story of the Earth throughout all time. Memories and tales spin around vase—
Let it consume you, let the present slip away as we dive into the past, dive into eternity.
By their crossing through the one great
mind, by the straining to be held (grasped) by my
And yet how they want to see behind themselves
twisting on their stems to see behind—as if there were a
back there they need, as if it’s a betrayal,
this single forward-facing
wedged—in between unsaying and
(“Gulls” by Jorie Graham)
Fill the vase from top to bottom with a lacework of text: Cuneiform blending into Latin into Norse, Greek, Italian, …, English, Chinese… and back again through endless time and space.
He speaks of the long chain back
to the beginning of ‘the world’ (as he calls it) and then, at last,
to the great no
beginning. I feel the no begin.
(“Evolution” by Jorie Graham)
The story ends at the beginning and begins at the end, spiraling down into the past and up into the future. How else could you fit eternity in the finite space of an urn? How else do you end a story without end? The immortal leans back, smears dust across their face and looks around.
*Structure of poetry directly transcribed from Jorie Graham’s book, Never. Poem titles stated in text.
This piece written for the Calvin College graduate’s fiction blog: Presticogitations. Visit there for other great pieces from my fellow alumni!