“The Geese,” Jorie Graham’s brilliant early poem, explores the relationship between order and disorder, meaning and the absence of meaning, and like so many of her poems is a poem about poetry itself: how do language and poetry create lines and stitch together meaning for us? How do we find our place in the natural world and in our own lives?

The Geese  

Jorie Graham

Today as I hang out the wash I see them again, a code
as urgent as elegant,
tapering with goals.
For days they have been crossing. We live beneath these geese

as if beneath the passage of time, or a most perfect heading.
Sometimes I fear their relevance.
Closest at hand,
between the lines,

the spiders imitate the paths the geese won’t stray from,
imitate them endlessly to no avail:
things will not remain connected,
will not heal,

and the world thickens with texture instead of history,
texture instead of place.
Yet the small fear of the spiders
binds and binds

the pins to the lines, the lines to the eaves, to the pincushion bush,
as if, at any time, things could fall further apart
and nothing could help them
recover their meaning. And if these spiders had their way,

chainlink over the visible world,
would we be in or out? I turn to go back in.
There is a feeling the body gives the mind
of having missed something, a bedrock poverty, like falling

without the sense that you are passing through the one world,
that you could reach another
anytime. Instead the real
is crossing you,

your body an arrival
you know is false but can’t outrun. And somewhere in between
these geese forever entering and
these spiders turning back,

this astonishing delay, the everyday, takes place.

Jorie Graham‘s work, for me, at least, is always on the edge: is this a poem of celebration or lament or both? Her tone is nuanced…what is the delay in which the everyday takes place? What is the bigger story or meaning that we are on the verge of entering?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. And please enjoy the writing prompts below


  • There are several classic poems about spiders and several classic poems about geese. Write your own spider or geese poem. Or a poem with both spiders and geese.
  • “There is a feeling the body gives the mind/ of having missed something” Use those lines to write a poem/ essay/ reflection
  • Use these 6 words in a piece of writing: urgent, crossing, pincushion, texture, bedrock, delay

I’d love to hear from you! Please leave comments or writing below 🙂 And as always, if you enjoy this, please share it.

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