THE VANISHING SEASON
has a son called Gargantuan
because days are long and full.
It dreams him into being
bigger than a snake, faster
than a tarantula, and teaches
him a new dance every day.
It pastes pictures to your
finger tips and rescues
a lock of hair. While
the Cicadas rant their song,
sleep awakens the beast.
shamrocks, dog biscuits, rock
hopping, skateboarding, going
for a swim, parties, the beach
bum afternoons, mornings
together; summer, where did
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Her single summer, the only one she knew—
curtains of rain over permafrost, then auroras
all night long, as the dwarf-woods woke
from snow, opened uncountable mouths
rejoicing in the sun's old syntax. We cut a way
through alder-thicket dense with bear-scent;
skirted mosquito bogs; camped on the Deshka.
Salmon-berries, blueberries, a bucket-full.
She swam out to a rock; sat there, statue-dog.
The one moment I ever saw her motionless,
but every sense alive, every synapse.
Moment merging light and shadow—gone
with a shutter-click. Shadow overtaking light,
sun slipping behind Denali; the Deshka
darkening. Her long winter almost upon her.
She only left the stories of her sons
and grand-daughters—dogs that follow
me or forge on ahead, my shadows.
I lie awake remembering midnight
callouts—your Shepherd-head resting in my
lap—long, winding 2-lane drives to places
I've never seen in daylight. Briefing, then
I'd follow you on game trails before dawn—
mineshafts, dropoffs. After earthquake, you led
me down tunnels dug in rubble, searching
to find someone alive. At night you slept
against me for comfort. I lay awake,
listening to the sirens. At last, too old
for searches, you laid your chin on my knee
as I tied my boot-laces. Your brown eyes
couldn't keep me home. I remember, in
last light, your woo-woo! of old-Shepherd joy;
golden falling leaves. And then you were gone.
Leather-bound King Arthur considers this
togetherness with antique stopwatch and
stuffed owl whose gaze unblinks; the hiss
of cigarettes in corridors where stand
the worn-out bypassed living out their bliss.
We nine held the moment together with
Shakespeare and baling wire, a boy's fogged face
outside the window ambushing time, while
the room of echoes filled: first-frost apples,
and stippled fish in wild ripples of stream;
how a dog's nose makes sense of the unseen;
two oranges—embers warming cold jacket
pockets. It was not quite Thanksgiving but
we held the pages in our folded hands,
reading out loud the unclocked words of praise.
When on a train, I
snuggle by a window
and watch the flickering views.
Farm lands shutter by
with dark and brown soils
plowed in neat rows
ready for planting.
This was once a prairie
with yellow-brown grass
swaying with the wind and
tall enough to hide creatures
not wanting to be seen.
Buffalo may have lived here.
Remains of once living towns
identified by cracked concrete
remnants along with rotting
wood silent in decay.
Other towns survived
looking like sets
in a cowboy movie,
left stranded when the new
highway stole their customers.
(Two Stiff Selling Gas are long dead)
Further along the track
is the place of wild horses,
deer, antelope, snakes and scorpions.
There is no peace for them now.
No sign of the tribes that
used to live and breed here.
The stream beds stay dry.
No panning of gold anymore.
I scope for signs of a large city,
first the buildings of small industry
warehouses, vacant lots
the outskirts of growth like
the edge of a whirlpool.
Tall buildings come into view.
The train slows
as it nears the station.
I listen for the sounds of steam;
those sounds are only memories,
there are hints of electric motors,
wheels on the tracks,
echoes of horns honking.
The city used to be a trading post,
later a military fort.
When the railroad came
hoards of cattle started
pouring in and the place had a future.
Now it looks like many other cities
full of opportunity and despair.
Some get on and some get off
and the train is moving again.
when you want to play
to measure shadows
instead of your height, believe
you'll vanish like the seasons?
What is a poem? Does it sleep
in the night while I'm dreaming?