Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
The river flows past her house. Today
I know I’ll find her with her rusty gold-pan,
working sand and gravel; swirling it
in shallow water like an incantation of hands.
This is her time away from chores
and schedules. As a fisherman releases
himself with the line he casts, here’s her sort
of healing, searching out the mountain’s
secrets. Mother-rock, erosion,
this river’s constant undammed flow.
She tries to teach me: where to pry a rock loose
to seek white sand, a nest for nuggets;
how to hold the pan, shake then dip, draw back,
let the light stuff float away. I never get it
right; it’s a touch I haven’t learned.
Already she’s down to color in her pan—
what’s heaviest, what stays
when everything else washes away: gold.
A gift from God, she says. She’ll
poke with tweezers in my swirlings, lift out
tiny specks of gold; send them home
with me in a little vial. I can’t
believe how bright, how heavy. She’s
panned enough for wedding rings to give
her grandson and his bride; a link
for life together, tractable yet strong
as love. How close she lives to the river.
WHICH PASS, WHICH RIVER?
I tried to find that place on the map
but it was beyond our where-
abouts, in the past before things were
leashed to their present boundaries.
You’d know it if you sailed there
on the see-through skin of remembrance,
late-summer lightning dancing
on a peak whose name you’ve forgotten.
Lost dreams of back-when. Which
watershed? The river calls itself
then and now by the same liquid syllables.
The meadow, too, keeps its magic,
blooming again every summer
after the death of snow. Late travelers
have gone to sleep forever
under September’s snow-spell.
It was your horse who saved you,
the sorrel who came to a whistle, not
to the shaking of bit against reins.
YOU AND YOUR ANGELS
I was thinking about the drive
I used to make, along a creek they didn’t
bother to name. The twistiest way
to town, the road clinging to cutbank
like wild-grape to oak. In autumn
when those oaks settle
into remembrance of winter dark,
wild grape puts on its fall color—bright
yellow leaves festooned
thirty feet high in the trees, draped
from tree to tree, the light of all
last summer’s sun transformed to leaf
in a single shade of glory.
And again this fall, I’ll think of Monet’s
streetlamp angel. Intensity
of pure imagined light glowing
over dry creekbed that remembers
the rush of a winter’s silver
rain. Wild grape, your bright angels.
Sounds like they rounded up all the kids
of the countryside in cowboy boots,
and shoo’d ‘em into the pavilion for Mutton
Bustin’ which involves wooly broncos
& small children hanging on by the fleece.
Listen to the whoops and flackery
on our way to other side of the fairgrounds,
across lawn; crowds in shorts ‘n tank tops—
July just about too hot for cowboy garb.
We’re in old El Paso boots not easy
for walking, battered Stetsons; headed
for the stage to read our poems. You’ve
got your saga about old sorrel Blaze,
that time the first snow nearly caught
you, September, high Sierra. I overhear
“Don’t talk theory, I don’t want my brains
going out my ears.” What’s fair is fair
at the fairgrounds. After Cowboy Poetry
come the Harmonica Championships.
There’s still the Butts in Blue Jeans contest
or you can try for first-prize Mustache.
I’ll check out the blacksmith; or maybe
pan some gold—I don’t mean cornbread.
Many thanks to El Dorado County Poet Laureate Taylor Graham for today’s fine grub, including her poem and photos of Cowboys and Cornbread, the annual county event which took place on July 17, including the Hangtown Harmonica Championship.
Taylor Graham writes that a new poetry venue has been established in El Dorado Hills. She writes, "We have a new monthly read-around, Poetry Off-the-Shelves, at the El Dorado Hills Library (7455 Silva Valley Pkwy, EDH), 1st Tuesday of the month, 5-7 pm, starting August 2." This will be in addition to the monthly Poetry Off-the-Shelves in Placerville.
TG also mentioned that she was introduced at C&C as “Poet Launderette”, which she found funny.
Today’s LittleNip is also by Taylor Graham, and it suits our recent “Friends” Seed of the Week. In this case, it describes the Three Meduskateers (D.R. Wagner, Katy Brown, and Taylor Graham) and the fun they have reading together and writing to each other’s work and posting it on Medusa's Kitchen over the years.
And speaking of friends, to see the July 20 Sacramento Bee article about recently-passed Sacramento Poet Ann Menebroker, go to www.sacbee.com/news/local/obituaries/article90685737.html
TIME OUT OF TIME
We were so much younger
five years ago, the three of us
in front of Vincent’s Starry Night,
smiling with those
full-face sunflower smiles
beamed from all the roadsides,
our poems just recited
still filling the reading room—
“What Landscape Teaches,”
and “Gifts of the Wind.”
I stare at that
photo I’ve hardly thought about
in years, see the three of us
as we couldn’t stay,
Time forever moving. Time
out of time, a prayer.
How could we be anything but
so alive in song?
or if you're in the mood for a cool, cool road trip,
Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back