Podcast: Lawrence Joseph
Lawrence Joseph’s poem ‘So Where Are We’, which first appeared in Granta 116: Ten Years Later, was selected for Best American Poetry 2012, edited by Mark Doty. We republish the poem in full here with a recorded reading by Joseph.
So Where Are We?
So where were we? The fiery
avalanche headed right at us – falling,
flailing bodies in mid-air –
the neighborhood under thick gray powder –
on every screen. I don’t know
where you are, I don’t know what
I’m going to do, I heard a man say;
the man who had spoken was myself.
What year? Which Southwest Asian war?
Smoke from infants’ brains
on fire from the phosphorus hours
after they’re killed, killers
reveling in the horror. The more obscene
the better it works. The point
at which a hundred thousand massacred
is only a detail. Asset and credit bubbles
about to burst. Too much consciousness
of too much at once, a tangle of tenses
and parallel thoughts, a series of feelings
overlapping a sudden sensation
felt and known, those chains of small facts
repeated endlessly, in the depths
of silent time. So where are we?
My ear turns, like an animal’s. I listen.
Like it or not, a digital you is out there.
Half of that city’s buildings aren’t there.
Who was there when something was, and a witness
to it? The rich boy general conducts the Pakistani
heroin trade on a satellite phone from his cave.
On the top floor of the Federal Reserve
in an office looking out onto Liberty
at the South Tower’s onetime space,
the Secretary of the Treasury concedes
they got killed in terms of perceptions.
Ten blocks away is the Church of the Transfiguration,
in the back is a Byzantine Madonna –
there is a God, a God who fits the drama
in a very particular sense. What you said –
the memory of a memory of a remembered
memory, the color of a memory, violet and black.
The lunar eclipse on the winter solstice,
the moon a red and black and copper hue.
The streets, the harbor, the light, the sky.
The blue and cloudless intense and blue morning sky.
reads his poem ‘So Where Are We?’ from Granta 116: Ten Years Later.