David Graham – To Earthward

Graham LE P&W June 2024

Download PDF Here

Live Encounters Poetry & Writing June 2024.

To Earthward, poems by David Graham.

To Earthward

Thirty years walking through the cemetery
I felt myself gradually slowing, my beard bleaching
with my dogs’ snouts. We wandered the rows,

moving sometimes older to recent, sometimes
the reverse. I’d puzzle at the German script
on the older slabs, hard to decipher that Gothic

lettering, even aside from the mossy inscriptions,
frost cracks, creeping lichen older than history.
But most of all, each winter would tilt the headstones

a little more each year, more toward the earth,
like grandfathers or grandmothers, bending
over a shy child to hear what they’ve said.


What is that tree across the street?
I knew it once: beautiful fan-like leaves.
One fall they all turned bright saffron yellow
and fell in a great circle on the ground
like a lamp’s low flame. Today I see my face
in the mirror but somehow not exactly myself.

I can’t say who phoned me this morning
but I think we had a nice talk. I tried
to look up the word for that tree, and while
stumped by the spelling, suddenly the leaves
turned blank, so I knew I was dreaming.

Maybe it was my mother calling me.
Whenever I haven’t phoned for too long
she’d always say not Hello, but “this is
your Mother. . .” as if I could ever forget.
But maybe is it possible I’ve begun to?

Still, these days I think more and more
of my dead and dear ones. I just wish
to listen to them again. I see the mailman
looking today just like my father, but says
nothing, smiling apologetically, then
carries on with his silent route as he leaves.

Gospel Grayscale

How sweetly we sing, Jesus,
how bright and braided our yearning.

Closest I’ll ever get to your heaven
are these voices rising like flocked birds

to twist, reverse, scatter and rejoin
in the gusty, cloud-confirming sky.

Singing O river of Jordan, singing
glad tidings beyond. I believe

we’re dead once and once only, Lord,
but how I love how sweet this song.

© David Graham

David Graham’s The Honey of Earth appeared in 2019 from Terrapin Books, joining Second Wind (Texas Tech), and Magic Shows (Cleveland State U Poetry Center); as well as four chapbooks. Local News: Poetry About Small Towns, an anthology co-edited with Tom Montag, appeared in 2019 from MWPH Books; and an essay anthology After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography, co-edited with Kate Sontag from Graywolf, 2001. Currently retired from teaching at Ripon College, he lives in Glens Falls NY.

One Reply to “David Graham – To Earthward”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.