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Three poems by Mark Jarman

“The Chalk of Moses,” “She Twirled,” and “O World Flung Inward”

The Chalk of Moses Skreeks Between My Fingers

  • The chalk of Moses skreeks between my fingers.
  • Milton’s blindness burns through my sheer eyelids.
  • Edmondsen’s hammer and chisel weigh down both my hands.
  • Yes, in my dreams.
  • Let me start again. I bite my index finger
  • and follow a trail of thought into a tunnel,
  • not moving from my desk, sweeping for clues,
  • footing it slowly.
  • Walls drop tapestries. Ceilings buckle.
  • Interior rooms unfold like ruined churches.
  • And bodies ready to be coupled with
  • produce lampblack for ink.
  • I look around for one true standing thing
  • or lying thing. Rising from underfoot
  • the realm of space is dizzying and close.
  • I lean, put down a word.


She Twirled Along the Brick Wall, Fingertips

  • She twirled along the brick wall, fingertips
  • clawing at mortar to take hold
  • and skittering over the wall face like a keyboard,
  • frantic, muted.
  • And I as usual was just trudging along,
  • head down — on ice this time — more of a mincing
  • than true trudging, though my soul trudged,
  • when I caught her.
  • Slim, young, padded in pleated fleece,
  • and taller than I as I helped her stand,
  • she pulled an earplug out beneath her knit cap,
  • said, “Ouch.”
  • And said it like a quiet bid for privacy.
  • Paternal, winded, I wanted an assurance.
  • And she assured me with a thanks that meant,
  • “Just let me cry.”


O World Flung Inward by an Arm of Stars

  • O world flung inward by an arm of stars,
  • feeling out of control or stalled,
  • o friend or enemy, propelled
  • always it seems without effort
  • among stars, a star yourself,
  • trailing your solar wind,
  • asleep in your life
  • as we dream you’re awake,
  • spare part, vital particle,
  • hung in a table leg or wisp of steam,
  • your permanence and evanescence
  • balanced by a term of art,
  • o make a joyful noise,
  • you’re on your way,
  • your transit has been noted
  • and made music.

Mark Jarman’s most recent collection of poetry is Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems (Sarabande Books, 2011). His honors include the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Poets’ Prize, the Balcones Poetry Prize, and a Guggenheim fellowship in poetry. He is Centennial Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. Sarabande Books will publish his next collection of poetry, The Heronry, in 2017.

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The Chalk of Moses Skreeks Between My Fingers

  • The chalk of Moses skreeks between my fingers.
  • Milton’s blindness burns through my sheer eyelids.
  • Edmondsen’s hammer and chisel weigh down both my hands.
  • Yes, in my dreams.
  • Let me start again. I bite my index finger
  • and follow a trail of thought into a tunnel,
  • not moving from my desk, sweeping for clues,
  • footing it slowly.
  • Walls drop tapestries. Ceilings buckle.
  • Interior rooms unfold like ruined churches.
  • And bodies ready to be coupled with
  • produce lampblack for ink.
  • I look around for one true standing thing
  • or lying thing. Rising from underfoot
  • the realm of space is dizzying and close.
  • I lean, put down a word.


She Twirled Along the Brick Wall, Fingertips

  • She twirled along the brick wall, fingertips
  • clawing at mortar to take hold
  • and skittering over the wall face like a keyboard,
  • frantic, muted.
  • And I as usual was just trudging along,
  • head down — on ice this time — more of a mincing
  • than true trudging, though my soul trudged,
  • when I caught her.
  • Slim, young, padded in pleated fleece,
  • and taller than I as I helped her stand,
  • she pulled an earplug out beneath her knit cap,
  • said, “Ouch.”
  • And said it like a quiet bid for privacy.
  • Paternal, winded, I wanted an assurance.
  • And she assured me with a thanks that meant,
  • “Just let me cry.”


O World Flung Inward by an Arm of Stars

  • O world flung inward by an arm of stars,
  • feeling out of control or stalled,
  • o friend or enemy, propelled
  • always it seems without effort
  • among stars, a star yourself,
  • trailing your solar wind,
  • asleep in your life
  • as we dream you’re awake,
  • spare part, vital particle,
  • hung in a table leg or wisp of steam,
  • your permanence and evanescence
  • balanced by a term of art,
  • o make a joyful noise,
  • you’re on your way,
  • your transit has been noted
  • and made music.

Mark Jarman’s most recent collection of poetry is Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems (Sarabande Books, 2011). His honors include the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Poets’ Prize, the Balcones Poetry Prize, and a Guggenheim fellowship in poetry. He is Centennial Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. Sarabande Books will publish his next collection of poetry, The Heronry, in 2017.

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