Three Poems | John Freeman | Granta

Three Poems

John Freeman


On nights when the moon
is like a hand on my cheek
and the gentler darkness
says this one is done
you’ve made it
In the morning there may
be the sharp whiff of coffee
or a breeze that carries
the curtains in or an arm
over your body you must
lift to get up like the weight
of the world can be measured
in small gestures
On these nights my gratitude
reaches its perigee and I
close my eyes try not
to feel the moment I begin
falling again falling back into
the outer darkness






The Red Umbrella

It rains all morning
in Frogner park

a sheet of green fog

crowds orbit Viegland’s
granite figures

like dancers in a merry-go-round

bodies slick as wet marble
leaning into one another

raising each other up
like torches

trying to remember
this is what a

body can be

the pile of a family
a thrash of lovers

an angry weeping

naked and alone

in the center a monolith
the figures

collide and try to come
together as if all

our pain comes
from our apartness

A lone woman

under a red umbrella
watches the figures

like they are a show

the great lawn breathes heat
into January air

we have more than enough you said
and in the instant

I knew it had always been true
we have made this religion

of turning skyward to say thanks
as if you weren’t

right here next to me and love
the red umbrella







One morning time trips a reel
and I’m confronted with
the object I will become
carpentered for eternity.
Here the wood’s grain
the carve and gouge
that felt like time
but was merely my body
How little it belongs
to me even the face
I’ve inherited from a hundred
mothers and fathers.
The grove beneath
vast and humble waits
her arms so vast
she has built a house for
billions and has word left
over for bookshelves, pews,
for tools and decoration.


Image © Tim Haynes



This is an extract from Wind, Trees by John Freeman, published by Copper Canyon Press.

John Freeman

John Freeman is the founder of the literary annual Freeman's and an executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf. He is also the author and editor of eleven books, including Dictionary of the Undoing; There's a Revolution Outside, My Love (co-edited with Tracy K Smith), and Wind, Trees, a new collection of poems. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and been translated into more than twenty languages. Once a month he hosts The California Book Club, an online discussion of a classic book of golden state literature for Alta magazine. He lives in New York City.

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