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Coaltrains Crossing the Wyoming Prairie

by Jorie Graham

The nuns in single file tiptoe lest they waken us,
          through piazzas,
through prairie,
immune to history.

The Lorettine, the Brigittine, the Carmelite
unstitch through the streets
their one street. . . .

Theirs is the game, the love, where everyone holds hands
because they can’t let go; they pray and wait;
          and I believe
they represent

the opposite of bravery, which is not cowardice
          but patience.
They pray and wait,
a surfaced stream over a dry terrain,

the inseam of a stitch, where what you see is just
          delay. They wait,
and our impatience is
the landscape they move through,

cold, black, apparition-like over the endless flat,

dragging what burns from the heart of the green hills.


Jorie Graham’s new works are forthcoming from Antaeus, The Paris Review, The Iowa Review, and The Nation. Her first book Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts was published this year by Princeton. (1980)

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