Green is the Oratorby Sarah Gridley
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Green is the Orator follows on Sarah Gridley’s brilliant first collection, Weather Eye Open, in addressing the challenge of representing nature through language. Gridley’s deftly original syntax arises from direct experience of the natural world and from encounters with other texts, including the Egyptian "Book of the Dead" and the writings of Charles Darwin, Peter Mark Roget, William Morris, William James, and Henri Bergson. Gridley’s own idiom is compressed, original, and full of unexpected pleasures. This unusual book, at once austere and full of life, reflects a penetrating mind at work—one that is thinking through and re-presenting romantic and modernist traditions of nature.
“Orator’s speech springs from revelation and desire, but its heart is in its observational exactness and reticence.”
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Green is the Orator
By Sarah Gridley
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESSCopyright © 2010 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
He is hell become heaven, becoming hell; he is evolution, a matter of energy, a star in the dark tomb, a shadow cast by sunlight. He is life that cannot be contained, a holy insurrection, blessed negativity.
About the star-cold abundance of August sand—
this spell of my two hands working in the dark
I liken to the feeling of your two hands working
behind me, or your two hands coming before me
in the white mirth of bright drapes, white lengths
the wind sends in salt-light through the feeling
your two hands have in coming to find me.
There are things I liken to crossbeams
inside of things I call politeness, things I liken to superintendence,
seashells, pale hosts of erosions, fadings
I liken to insight. There in the window
of your soloist house, I think that nothing
is holding up
this thought that is feeling you moving.
Salt Marsh, Thick with Behaviors
In seasoned assertion, the red-winged calling of the grass.
From spaces outside the territory, the stone summons,
the stone sum. Weight is a quality known to boundary's
swerve. The sum of which is fragile: waves leave mica
stuck to skin. Some I know of inherence. Some
I have not remembered. Among the lightest of insects,
a Comma has a cryptic edge. A woman should behave herself,
naturally. In mica, the glamorous stammer of mirror—
A woman should behave herself naturally. Bill-tilt,
check-call, songspread—a bone flute snapped
from passage of bird—the unearthed
Table of Consanguinity (The Cousin Chart)
Once they are there,
the bearings are theirs, the sickness peculiar to motion
removed by horizon's evident flatness.
What they bear is the date, and whatever will follow.
Bay of gray margins, mobile as curfew. Rollick of tides
and empty casements. Stone-deaf stones marking thoughts
out loud. Schist like a book of tempers.
Stars in dogged pantomime.
the waves were for lengthening.
Slow, elemental line. Gray like the saint of a put-out fire.
Sea of gray margins, solemn as seals. On it a flash
like something wrong. On it the falling quiet.
What they touch is the moss
like an earthly expense.
Green in a poise
almost vernacular, almost the sensible
guide to North.
Diminution of the Clear Thing
My somnolence is
the rest of trees (sessile touch around dry leaf
to know my weirdest passiveness). To go the irises
the pebbled drive the luminous
claps into valley.
When you have posted a letter in the open air,
an artist will know your feeling,
will ground the clouds in canines of noon,
gold leaf pressured over graphite sun.
To feel outside an envelope—
unchangeable corner mailbox blue—
there are words in the morning against
the mind, containing sleep
in the shape of walking. A nomenclature castle opens to sky:
I may not taste
Chagrin the name between the banks,
so many doors down and winded from counting,
pronouns in acts of substitution,
weirdness in the middle of making promises,
where I am in mind for nothing else
than to call out,
to wander ahead with names—
to emerge as the last of the woodwind
To call out,
to utter in
in nameable forms, the squid
that tastes where it touches.
Half Seas Over
Or simply, drunk— Dutch courage in the face of milk and flummery—
our passive margin, our transitional crust, our rift obtusely
known as creation.
As it lost its concentration, gold was a million things
that wouldn't be dragged from ocean:
a reason to form— the sun profounding surface—
the come-loose asterisks
of starfish bones.
Jardins sous la pluie
You paint precipitation
following thunder: wands of soaked fire, arcs of searevising
sun, salt come up to seed in clouds, downfallen cool
and diagonal water.
You paint the garden the garden is: a border blued in
in heavy heads, hydrangeas fed aluminum sulfate,
a border blued up in amended beds, in old
pear peelings and grass.
Moon is to the blueness of panicles as seawater is
to the whiteness of rain. Hours in this feeling
of yours and mine.
Born in the woulds of the given body, waking up
this often there.
Sweet Habit of the Blood
Viburnum's winter fairy globe: in outer robing
it is vivid: a cardinal meal in the drifting bright.
As inner movement understood, radiant caverns
in the out of sight. Up for the habit
of the robust world, the wood boat floating
of a starred green loom.
* * *
meets with unsteady, there is the lot of physical forms. And guest
and guessed are one to me: whether the sky or whether the lake.
I feel before I want to know: water stays fluid below the frost,
and silver quiets the jargoned heart.
* * *
Long in the wild of new-ending winter, the exhumed fletcher
could step out
showing his armful of arrows
Is He Decently Put Back Together?
If there is nothing half-assed about the redbud tree, she can be beside it
compositionally, in the form of a spring tableau. See her female
receding to a slight power. Coefficient before a vivid variable,
amplifying, as will the May wind, a purple of the bark-
Was it happening to be there, or coming to act
in keeping with one's nature? Who has thought that a soul
is a list of things to be done? Far into the color
of a scene's exaggeration, the lagoon is reading
dreadful words to itself. Looking glass
for the apple in flower,
for that cost of the sky on its surface.
Under the Veil of Wildness
Draw the curtains for candescence.
The antlers were forged by the silversmith.
The sun slips off
auroras, illumines branches of extinction.
Do you call the main body marker: a standing
as if instead of? Or else a thing stooped
down upon, and loved? Beneath the tree
a childhood coffer, a penny
and an acorn smell. I call the main body
bramble: verging glow of a crusted switchbox,
on and off until a kind of ending comes.
Looking quietly at a trumpet, a flared bell,
a blackness encompassed by brass, you say Wait.
Looking backto the prickers, to the fruit-
picking hand, can you say
Enough? I call the main body
espoused: line of symmetry inside, trench
between two lungs, for the twoness of, the two-
timedness of breathing.
Under the tree, a childhood coffer,
a stashing anda rooting spell.
By oxygen-drawn sheerness into red,
I call the branches to describe themselves.
A body is mainly its branches—
branca claw paw hand—
and untender branches.
Coming to the Festival of the God of Boundaries
Helios the mute, the keen in Pan's knife.
Some time critical at the bending stream, where he cuts the reeds
at staggered lengths and with the beeswax
begins to bind them.
Beneath the humanly shaped air is an animal's
report of feeling.
Then for the first time saying or.
Turning your instrument toward the tree, all the training comes up
as something just below your skin, yet within the business
of the sun. You could be readily alone,
you could be difficult to reach or speak to,
at present included in the subsoil production, where Mercury
scythes the head off Io's warden, Argus, whose every hundred eyes
under the messenger's messenger voice
caves to a slumberous feeling.
In such a beautiful piece
for reeds, it is all ears under the architected
bridal veil, our trinkets working to the surface of earth.
The earth, too,
and moreso tidal, tidal in the congregate
shifts of grazing, tidal in the turn of plow, itself a substance
for the moon's compactments.
Her own voice frightens her. In lowing hearing herself low.
Her father feeds her grass, swats a fly
from her eyelash.
The border completely herbaceous. Quantities of sun
later to be crushed from borage.
To wedge a story inside a story. To cut the trunk radially.
Argus, whose every hundred eyes heard Syrinx running
into sound, Syrinx being chased by everywhere.
Staggered lengths of story.
And does the god have a mind of his own,
Pan in the needles, the unthinkable pine wreath,
a ubiquity darkly seductive of breeze?
Along her various edges, between obvious and audible and covetous,
the rarely dissected textures, fog is condensing into water
on the hardened forewings (shards)
of darkling beetles.
For the reinstatement of a hundred eyes, the covert feathers
snapping into courtship.
Now you: you now.
speaks into the mouth, if the very long dead exceed our energy?
In the room adjoining the living room, the offer to play
the nocturne over.
You now: now you—
Makes an Arrangement
Of many stems, the water, lukewarm, the water whose irenic ladder down
to a slant clip in going giving to the stem a greener opening
who gives a period
and gives to live in lost continuation
of oneself, sticks caught
in peace of stones, in clouds shaped as a windpipe
at a no more foreign accent
true in the woods
there is in trillium, a wild against the skin
and body the very gesture could be true, body drawn truce
in the pencil-looks of life, from nature
drawn and made of water—drawn of rush, copper, salt—of flowers the earth
why not bestows
what makes me know
in a faucet hue, could silver
warm to be a hue (to bird down, beauty, hide)
time and water rooming
in the ewer base, then you (good
god) is true, and futures on the glass of flower cooler, and past,
a glass (in time comes in), a second-seeded eucalyptus, and drops
on glass, and split-off thoughts, on cooler door,
diminutives of mass—
the molecules, the hand-shaped streaks
Return of the Native to the Widespread Hour
In her yellow caravan, the feather merchant has sold out of wares.
Ambitious only to feel her coat's inner lining, in performing one
normal action backward, she sublimes, she goes beneath
the oldest stone, she greets the interruptive
shake before duration.
Breathe on a harpsichord, and it will sound.
Sink a chunk of salt on your tongue to name the ocean.
The swan's distinctive contour will pinpoint the sky.
So her resources are wanting to reach her:
knowing with a red cloth tied at her neck
where leafage is system to leaves.
this region that moves the voice is made of ears
so that a region we are born to
sounds like listening and we seem even older
when we speak this way—like a glow of clay compressed—light
as the hiddenness of the nonapparent
sun being wind along the leaves—among pieces of recognition—
bootprints that said footsteps on the day's clean floor—a flox's
violent blue—a word or two more valuable
than those surrounding it or them
because made of what we eventually are (that is the region
a region expanding the accent inward)
glass washes up soft
in fields that are folds of waves for you
without edges to see and weigh it lightly (you)
so that nearer to the heart (for me
to say it) is not coming or going but is
the lasting dissolution made particular
as sea glass in the whole blue
and you inhabit
Excerpted from Green is the Orator by Sarah Gridley. Copyright © 2010 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Sarah Gridley is Assistant Professor and Poet in Residence at Case Western Reserve University and is the author of Weather Eye Open (UC Press).
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