A Journal of Poetry and Kindred Prose

David Graham

lives in Ripon, Wisconsin, where he is a professor of English at Ripon College.

He has published two full-length books and four chapbooks, most recently Stutter Monk (Flume Press). With Kate Sontag, he co-edited the essay anthology After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography (Graywolf Press).  Poems, essays, and reviews have appeared widely, in print and online, most recently in TriQuarterly, Salt River Review and qarrtsiluni.

He also maintains an online Poetry Library

—Back to Orsorum Contents/Issue Links—

Statewide Razing

An orange dumpster the size
of a small house, parked near
the newly wrecked old gym, overbrims
with a jagged jumble of bricks
and shattered glass, strips
of ripped-up shingles, concrete
chunks, oddly twisted lengths
of rusty raingutter, pipes
blackened and bent, asphalt lumps,
and the rare gleam of marble.

“Statewide Razing”: their stark logo
a dropped pebble that ripples out
suddenly across my mind: I see
buildings all over Wisconsin
disappearing today into such
efficient maws, and surely
there are other companies
specializing in demolition,
a whole industry devoted
to unmanufacture, taking down
what the decades have wrought,
every apartment house, library,
school, or factory fair game
in time—all to come down in a day
or week, clouds of dust unsettled
as ghosts, wrecking ball never
still, dump truck after dump truck
hauling it all into memory.

It’s nothing but the necessary
passagework of compost and decay,
these dozers and cranes
the burying beetles and carrion crows
of our outleafing towns,
the unending turnover of failure
and success alike, leaves dropping
to September ground, then rising
root to twig in due season,
raising and razing the night
and day of our solemn turning.


The Honey of Earth The honey of heaven may or may not come,
But that of earth both comes and goes at once.

—Wallace Stevens

We wake to winter blaze on our windows—
the world whitened while we slept
through gray-brown weeks
of rotten nutfall and littering leaves
crusted with ice. We rise like fever
against frost skimming the pane, we rise burning
and pure as the clouds piling our back yard.
If this isn’t our valentine, what is?
We’ll scrawl this newly-blank slate like kids
and erase at leisure. The world loves us,
we say, the world loves us not. Solve for X,
the flurries mumble, settling down to stay.
Beneath the tumble and flutter of snow
lie bulbs stored in ice-lock, ready to burn
and shudder upward from their own decay,
the honey of earth immemorial.
So I send you this valentine, my love,
though it comes and goes at once, though it kites
like a snowflake up and down, over and out.