Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dulcinea's Smile

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

They were sowing the edges of forest
with spent cartridges. Pop-pop—earth littered
with plastic red drops. On a logging road

I found lined-up dummies shot execution-
style, heads bound with scrap cloth, wooden
baby-dolls lying in skid-trail dust. Victims

of a drive-by—no, that was on the TV news.
This is dream, a walk in the woods.
One old cedar leaned about to fall, its guts

shot out. 3000 rounds, or a million,
fired not at random; into bark and sinews.
A scarred old cottonwood still

puts out hopeful shoots, lovely
green. Is this a dream? The cedar lowered
to its knees where it kneels to pray.


—Taylor Graham

His horse gone decades ago
to the boneyard—how did the old avenger-
of-wrongs end up here, at the Cowboy
Poetry Roundup? He asks someone
to clip his chaps up the back—
a knight shouldn't have to buckle his own
armor. Rough-out leather,
from a pawnshop in—surely not Barcelona.
Maybe Fresno. Dates and places
escape him now. But he remembers verses
long gone to myth. Enchanted
caves; windmills. A grizzly bear
gold-purple in sunset mountain light.
The shoot-out for Dulcinea's
smile. In boots not made for walking,
he totters up on stage.
No spotlight, no light at all but his
words. Rocinante rhymes
with nothing but the wail of a gut-
strung guitar.


—Taylor Graham

Water dries up so quietly, we don't notice,
until the mud bakes with a silk-sheen
crust that cracks, pulls apart in jigsaw-puzzle

pieces. If I looked closer, I might see tiny
imprints on the surface as if fossils—tadpole
squiggles, mosquito wigglers. Life that

was, before the drought. My dog could read
these histories with her nose, but she has
no human words to tell me. She can smell

running water from a quarter mile away.
There isn't any. She seeks shade, leaving sand-
paper paw-prints on the smooth mud crust,

fractured as it dried. Whose fault? Fragments
of tracks in dust, a jigsaw picture. How
shall we put the pieces back together right?


—Taylor Graham

At night in the dark—you with half-blind eyes
at time's edge, vision's midnight in disguise—
you saw old Possum shadow-black emerge
from closet, silent at the hallway verge.
And she was gone. The rest is just surmise

and worry. Black Possum—who curled slantwise
while dwindling from a purr—we'll eulogize.
But hear the rooster's raucous cock-crow surge
             at night in the dark.

Whatever can that mean? A kind of dirge,
a fanfare for tomorrow—how we purge
the nightmares, disappearances, half-lies
before, at daybreak, you and I will rise
to call the cat. Beyond our doors, doubts merge
                         with night in the dark.


—Taylor Graham

Somebody used to live in this cabin
before air-conditioning and chlorinated water.
Someone must have hauled water up the dry hill—
water that seeped from springs
where a child might hunt for salamanders—
water that lazed awhile in a high lake,
focusing August sun in brilliant ripples.
But this cabin—no one lives
here now, where summer punishes the roof,
the door hanging by a hinge;
where coyotes—sable half-shadow—
pass through the two twilights.


—Taylor Graham

In July, under a ceiling-fan, the dogs
sprawled on the hardwood floor.
In July I'd sit on the deck watching bats swoop
from the eaves at dusk.
In July, old cat Possum cuddled against me
to share body-warmth.
In July, old dog Taco slept in the bathroom tub.
In July, jays and towhees went about
their summer business.
In July, at night I'd sweat inside the screens.
In July, cold air feels so unnatural.


Today's LittleNip(s): 

Desert mesa
in tones of joyful mirage


Thermal day winds
dry now
the seasonal lagoon


Shy livestock stares
blink blanks
a hammer swinging downwards

—Michael Cluff, Corona



 Possum, where have you gone?
—Photo by Taylor Graham