Straus and Giroux
About the Book
first new poetry collection in a decade addresses
one by one the things that people need to live
– land, water, sky, food, shelter, thought,
talk, sex, and generation.
About the Author
McMichael is the author of five other collections
of poetry: Against the Falling Evil (1971),
The Lover’s Familiar (1978), Four
Good Things (1980), Each in a Place Apart
(1994) and The World at Large: New and Selected
Poems, 1971-1996 (1996). Among his awards
are a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’
Award, and the Shelley Memorial Prize. He is the
director of the Master of Fine Arts Poetry Writing
Program at the University of California, Irvine.
Excerpted from CAPACITY
by James McMichael
2006 by James McMichael.
All rights reserved.
That as all parts of
agree in their low resistance to flow,
so should it be agreed
to call it water.
To say of water that it floods both
forward and back through places
difficult to place demands that the ensouled
themselves make places for their parts of speech,
the predicates arrayed in
front of or behind the stated subject—
water, in the case at hand. Water
attains to its names because it shows as one thing
speech is about.
It shows as water.
To say no
more than that about however broad a sea is
it says there must be something
some second thing at least, or why say
how the thing shows? Before it can be taken
as a thing, as sea,
there have to have been readied for it other
the sky. Possible that
somewhere in the midst of waters there could
be such things as might be walked on,
felsite, quartzite, remnant
raised beach platforms, shales,
a cliff-foot scree.
Until given back accountably as
extant and encountered,
nothing counts. Nothing counts until
by reason it is brought to stand still.
Country. That it stands over
against one stands to reason. Not without
reason is it said of country that it
counters one’s feet. To count as
groundwork for a claim about the ground,
reason must equate with country.
To be claimed as that, as country,
sand blown inland from the dunes must
equal its having landed grain by grain.
All grains have their whereabouts.
From emplacements in their clumps of
marram grass and sedges,
some will be
aloft again and lime-rich
grain by grain will land.
Country is its mix of goings-on.
For these to tally, befores from
afters must at every turn divide.
Before it turns,
a cartwheel has its place to start from. It
stands there in place. In place an
axle’s width away, another
parallel wheel is standing.
Not for long.
After each wheel in concert leaves its
first place for a second,
it leaves again at once a third and more. No more
fewer are its places on the strand than it has
time for in its turning.
one at a time,
these places are the lines the cart
makes longer at each landward place.
Not late for what goes
on there as its heft at each next place bears
down onto the loams and breaks them,
cart is in time. Time
is the cart’s
enclosure.There for the taking,time is
around the cart,
which takes it from inside.Around
stones in the dry-stone dyke are
times out of mind,
those times the stones’ embeddings let them
also are in time, and the three cows.
The blacklands are in time with their
ridged and dressed short rows of barley.
As it does around
bursts that for the places burst upon
abandon where they were before,
time holds around
the moving and the resting things.