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Granta Audio: Lawrence Joseph

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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.

Lawrence Joseph reads his poem 'So Where Are We?' from Granta 116: Ten Years Later.

Lawrence Joseph reads his poem 'So Where Are We?' by Ted Hodgkinson

Photo by Racoles.

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