Michael McGriff

Lines Written Before the Day Shift

Let me be the architect
in the glass city of your mouth.
The wild clock of your mouth
spins backwards: glass to sand,
sand to freshwater pearl.
Let me be the beekeeper, feather
merchant, knife-thrower, soothsayer,
the savant of your mouth.
The farrier with tested theories
of wear and distance,
the shoeing of your mouth,
the alchemy of it, its horse-drawn wheel.
Let me hoist half a sugared lemon
to the slick roof.


Because the mouth moves us
from one unknowing to the next,
let me banish the charted course,
theory, and fine angles;
let no mechanical lily
take root in its soil;
let nothing be raised
to its palate—no pale words,
no anvil’s lust for iron, nor the hands of men.
Let nothing obscure the mystery
of the thumb-deep vault
of the thimbleberry of your open mouth
as you sleep under the dawn-flicker
of tea lights.


Let there be room enough
for the Weaver Maiden and Ox Driver
who lie shackled to polar banks
of the River of Heaven, where once a year
they cross those star-laced waters in your mouth
on a bridge of sparrows,
meet midway and lose themselves
wholly in each other like branches of wisteria.
Give me this star-tortured patience,
the yearning, this one night lived
and relived in the heavenly bodies
moving over the wings of your mouth.
One thimbleful of wet light
poured into another.

Michael McGriff
Poem, copyright © Michael McGriff, 2005
Appearing on the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2006, From the Fishouse