Wednesday, September 02, 2015

For All the Lost...

Loki and Trek
—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

            for Loki & Trek

I use her blanket to swaddle the babe
in our truck on the drive home.
Might it meld their scents,
so our bitch will accept this pup as her own?

mother-dog whose puppies moved on
to new homes with strangers; who, for weeks
after giving birth, searched house and truck—
inside & under-carriage—for a pup

she believed was missing. And now,
she seems to know without sniffing, this
new pup is hers, the one she lost
at whelping; who vanished poof into air.

He comes by the grace of a mother-dog
miles away who even now is losing
her puppies, one by one by one
to strangers like us.



The place we thought would be deserted
was screaming with kids, Saturday game
where you meant to lay a trail for the dogs.
And so we made of thwarted plans
a training chance. Loki in harness and long-
line, Trek following along dragging
his leash behind him. You skirted the soccer
field—Trek stared through chainlink
fence, he’s never heard such noise faster
and faster and oh, that flying ball!
then past the old two-story schoolhouse—
watch a gray squirrel scamper up high
stucco wall. Every thing in the world is new
to a puppy. Loki pulled me at a flying
trot, fancy ropework not to tangle my shoes.
Up to the kiddies’ yard, where we
found you in a playhouse built on sand-
box. It wasn’t at all what we planned.


We called your name in the dark, drought, rain.
We followed your footsteps on rock, mud,
sand where weather swept them away.
We asked every pine tree in the forest, every
manzanita thicket: Which way would he go?
We drifted our questions in the river’s deepest
channels. We watched the flight of buzzards
and consulted birdsong. We read the scrivening
of dawn and twilight, shadows at noon;
the light in a dog’s eye, the way she’s pulled
head-first by the wind over untracked snow.
And sometimes, there you were among rocks,
trees, sunlight shining, in river’s undertow.



I had no camera but the retina
behind my eye. Thirty years later the images
shiver like highrises, batter against each other,
smash down in heaps burying labyrinths
where people lived. That morning the earth spun
and a needle slipped, a newscaster
stuttered, walls fell down. Ceilings crashed
in pieces onto floors.
Clumsy patchwork, a toilet topsy-
turvy in a ballroom. Sirens needled the dark
as if they could sew the city back
together. Hanging arches, sweet smell
of death. I followed my dog, beam of a flash-
light, pin-prick of Tuesday noon
through chinks in rubble. A bit of Oaxacan
embroidery in colors of lake and sky
sifted with dust.
Over years the images go on
crumbling, our world shifting its plates
under my feet, Time passing a haze
that settles over my city. Concrete dust.



I listen for you outside the door, you kink-tail
black-ink Blink. Of all things feline in this
sunny valley, you had the widest moon eyes,
Blink. Kitten who grew to wander-lusting
cat-hood, you who purred in dream as if you
heard a spring-head of purling-clear waters
round which sleep the dainty-morsel birds;
you who crammed your cat-head springing
with desires through our half-cracked door
and disappeared into night as black as you
were. Oh why do I imagine the night might
give you back? Listen. If you’ll come home
again, I’ll write a proper ode to you, Blink.


As if our history were inscribed in smoke
dissipated into sky, and in shadows
where memory lurks at noon, and of course
in rust. All these disconnected, oxidizing
gears and pipes and shafts, enigmatic parts
I couldn’t name, and machinery, tools entire
that made encampment into town into city.
It’s all been hauled here – even the giant
stamp mill; even the headstones discovered
behind someone’s garage, or under decades
of leaf-fall on a hill. This yard is a library
if I could read it. Who knows what memory
spins in a static wheel? Who knows
where the dead are buried?



Every language must have words for it—
saudade, Sehnsucht, pesar, the syllables rise
from depths I can’t find in my father’s
old anatomy books, in my mother’s eyes.
The distance between near and far
not measured by time or space.
A burden of shadow in the dark. Silent
weight of owl-wing bearing the lamb away,
night veiling its shadow-matrix in lace
of stars. At last the ancient singing stops—
worn threadbare with mourning, longing for
light. In that lapse, the needle of a night-
breeze comes up to mend the tear.
In this dry summer, remember the breath
of roses. Is everything heaven? Somewhere
across canyon a dog takes up the song
of this moment passing past to present. Now.

Today’s LittleNip:


See the mop-strings, brown from swabbing
dirty floor, the outdoors tracked inside,
story of my life. See this spot of contrast
among the twisted strings, an odd
smooth texture, mottled camo-beige, with
eyes. Wink of a white dot at the masked
corner of an eye. It blinked, disentangled
itself in one springing leap, gone,
leaving my lens empty of dazzling yellow,
his amphibian chorus-dancer’s legs.

—Medusa, thanking Taylor Graham for today's fine poems and photos, and noting that we have a new photo album on Medusa's Facebook page: History in Placerville by Taylor Graham—photos of the old machinery at the El Dorado County Historical Museum—check it out!—and a note that her "Concrete" poem today marks the 30th anniversary of the Mexico City earthquake, in which the Grahams participated in search-and-rescue with their dogs. 30 years!