—Taylor Graham, Placerville
What advice would you give the children?
Watch flocks of bright birds like shuffling cards.
What kind of cards?
Ideograms, photos of yourself in past places.
What coyotes deal in the dark.
What kind of birds?
Bushtits tinkling like Christmas bells
in the scrubby oak trees.
Tell me about your history?
Truck breakdowns, wings. Some things
What do you believe deep inside?
Birds and angels seem closest when you’re lost.
Every garden doorway is a lit candle,
something moving in the corner of your eye.
How will you know the right direction?
Isn’t it enough to be somewhere in the labyrinth?
LIGHT AND SHADOW
I can’t catch with a camera. They keep
moving. Sun’s autumn-yellow
cottonwood leaves falling against
the dark of oak trees holding fast in ravines
between rock ridges. Golden nets
of wild-grape. One deer—cautious-alert—
crossing the dry flats. From this high
watch-post I see it quick as a flick of ears;
then gone. A man moving west
without a map, maybe calling for strength
to climb one more uncounted hill—
tailings of ball-bearing rock. Now he’s
gone too. One buzzard circling, spiraling,
sketching air currents my lens
won’t capture. Nothing but light, this
light we can’t keep. And the wind!
ALL FOR FREE
Such a long drive, so much traffic, everyone
in such a hurry. So we pull off behind a Quik-
Stop just short of the 99. Here’s a patch of grass,
grapevine on a chain-link fence, two fig trees.
Bird-pecked figs litter the ground, so much waste
of fruit. Here’s an empty KFC bucket that never
found a trash-can. My dogs go snuffling scents
while I fill the bucket with figs. Back home,
my sheep will make thanksgiving of the wind-
fall. And here comes a man with dog. He nods,
begins reciting a poem he wrote in his bad-old-
days. He speaks the lines too fast, as if they
load him down, he’s glad to get rid of them.
But when he’s finished, in his eyes more light
than they can hold. Might we read our poems
in return? Never too much of a good thing.
Here’s the pond. Look down
at your reflection full of cloud-wings
and the kestrel passing overhead.
Even the cheat-grass waves upside-down
about your ankles in the overwhelm
of seeps and recollected rain, the chant
as if from pond-mud, or from earth:
I have strange power of speech.
Is this the true alchemy? What were
the words and in what language,
spoken only for yourself?
—Michael Cluff, Corona