Invitation to Ms. Jorie Graham


by Daniel Bosch

In Iowa City, in a jail of corn—taller than you are and more tasseled—
live out your sentences.
In Iowa ice, in the dark of its aquifers,
live out your sentences,
with the rising sun your warden
winking like meter on the floundering plains
and glazing the dullest park bench in Des Moines,
live out your sentences.

Go ahead and ask about the klaxons and sirens.  The church steeples
are breaking their ecumenical silences
having finally come to a point above Iowa.
Exit 37-A on I-80 is closed:  an act of God,
a singularity, an opaque hailstone
big as a workshop but less likely to melt.
No one can pass it: nobody still has plans.
The brittle corn shucks itself and smiles:
live out your sentences.

Stay for the bulbs you planted in velvety
peat moss that caught in your hair,
to gather your students’ cocoons from still classrooms,
for your acolytes’ writing, for the way they’d tug
at your velvet skirt if you tried to go—
live out your sentences.

With Microsoft 6.0 at your feet,
with what you call thinking, draped in gypsy beads,
live out your sentences.
Lies and silos fog the landscape;  Iowa
rustles with Dasein on an ordinary evening,
so live out your sentences.

Refusing verse technique, refusing to wait
for good lines while Romantic icons
back up like combines on state highways,
their idling engines’ roar undreamt by taped philosophy
you rewind and rewind, savoring the fray
of Herr Professor’s cut-off words, his fits and starts,
live out your sentences.

Where convenience stores continuously welcome you,
where waiter is one letter away from writer,
where righteous white slats picket your departure
for every graduate seminar, then wait for your return
to your writing room and your desk,
live out your sentences.

You can stand it there; you have the internet
and the arrangement of your fossil remains,
you have your students’ parenthetical desires
for you to tell them who they are, so live,
live out your sentences.

With critics’ love, the love of only children,
opening crocuses and anthologies,
with spring fellowships blooming in your dooryard,
with bouquets of lilacs and corn silk
live out your sentences.

Wait out the sea’s return to Iowa:
it is night and at this distance
your wavering spark is mistaken for Polaris
so please, in Iowa, in a cell of brittle stalks and leaves,
live out your sentence.


“Invitation to Ms. Jorie Graham” was first published in Bostonia (Spring 1999) and then in Crucible, Other Press, 2002

This poem is a very close “negative image” of Elizabeth Bishop’s “Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore” which ought to be read here.

Cover image by Scott McLeod

About the Author:

Daniel Bosch’s poems, translations, essays, and reviews appear widely. His collection Crucible was published by Other Press in 2002. He lives in Chicago.