Five Points, Vol. 21, No. 3

Sample Content

Gregory Fraser
The Marble Hour


Ever since I read “96 Vandam” in my powder-blue
in Stanley Diamond’s third-story walkup on 110th,
I’ve wanted to shield my eyes from the greasy sun
and listen to the great architects and masons—
katydids and tree frogs—erect the walls of summer,
I’ve wanted to tell the ashen squirrels about a knot
of loss that tightens, day by day, halfway down
my throat,and ask how they cope with their 
  own erasures,
swooping soundlessly, razor-beaked, shaped 
  like angels.
If they talk about kissing each other with the small,
furred mouths of their wounds, if they speak
with the torn lips of immigrant Ukrainian Jews,
then I will phone up Jerry and tell him
of the rapture that swallowed me whole
one winter morning in Brigantine, New Jersey,
when I felt a horse’s legs inside my legs, next to 
  the green sea-light,
and galloped until my hoofmarks joined the 
  countless forgotten
memories of sand. I know what he would tell me
in his deerhorn-velvet wisdom, mistaking me for one
of his rotten angels—Gilbert, say—calling collect again
in the middle of the night, botching the time zones,
from Limbo. Jack, he’d say, it isn’t until you find the 
that unlocks the ribs and liberates the lungs,
until you stare into and through the gray stones
of your own eyes, it’s not until you break out
of a thick wood into a clearing, and stand on the bank
of a lake—mirror under blue-black silk—
that you’ll understand why I lugged around a mattress
in that poem years ago, why I haul it still, in my 
  96th year,
from home to grocery to P.O. box and back.
It wasn’t because I was running experiments
on the sexual energy harnessed from dreaming 
  in motion,
street to street, and it wasn’t because I’d seen 
  and been
too many ghosts by then, and needed the security 
  of metal
springs and foam. It was because I tried to heft 
  the piano
and almost broke myself, and because in every 
  person’s life
there comes a time, one hour, that is cast in a pose
of either freedom or constraint—a marble hour
with shoulders thrust back, arms flung out,
or wrenched in contortions of woe. In the right light,
that hour can take on life, and with the right
ten-pound, hickory-handled sledge
it can be hammered to bits. My hour wanted bashing
and I knew, if I could finish the job, I’d need a place 
  to crash.