Monday, March 27, 2017

Decisions, Decisions

—Anonymous Photos

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

An old country store, patronized
by locals, shaven or not; whitewater rafters,
and families taking a scenic route from
somewhere to somewhere else.
Your dog pushed open the swinging
front door. The man behind the counter
said yes, the missing lady had been there,
yesterday. She went straight to the
liquor aisle, stood a long time choosing.
Like she had all the time in the world,
or none. Seemed separate, somehow—
fractured, like rock. All the life-energy,
the thrill drained out. Never said
a word till she’d paid for her bottle. All
downstream from here, isn’t it? Your dog
led you through blackberry thickets
down to the river, rapids of wild snow-
melt carrying everything away.


—Taylor Graham

A mountain renowned for crystal peaks, 
pristine wilderness yet not beyond the range
of distant automatic imaging, scientific
On a glorious September morning,
every golden aspen leaf translucent with light,
the two set out on an overnighter—
all they could carry in a Kelty pack, plus cameras
slung around their necks to snap fall colors
against the dark of conifers. They
watched clouds build over the summit; 
camped in a high-lake basin, caught rainbows
for supper; woke at dawn
to snow. What last night was a granite bowl
of crystal water was frozen tight.
One small plane rode the blue wind
overhead; oblivious; sun-struck fuselage
slipping below snow’s horizon.
Nothing marred the perfect white,
a world turned winter-magical, impossibly
far from roadhead.

—Taylor Graham

We’re on the trail of quilt blocks, hand-painted, hung  
            on old barns, in gardens. They beckon
                       travelers along country roads that climb ridges,
twist with the shrug of hillside, tuck into hollows.
           Quilt patterns passed down generations. Ohio Star,
                 Log Cabin, Scottish Cross, Gold & Silver.

Today, we’ve driven a crazyquilt of vineyards,
           woods and orchards; patchworks of town and field.
                      By that old barn, prospectors
watched the Wells Fargo stagecoach thunder by.
          And there, land homesteaded 160 years ago.

                      Imagine a circle of farm women quilting:
patterns of green, big-leaf maple sunlit in a dark canyon,
          and lavender—distance, time remembered.

                     A woman straightens the bed-quilt,
remnants of a home she left on the other side of mountains.
         A child sleeps under the comfort
                    of hand-sewn quilts pieced of family history.

We’ve followed the trail here, to this home of the arts—
        the Fausel House of pioneering days.
                   A scrap of patient fiber-art—an heirloom    
durable yet delicate—brought back to light,
        honored in this quilt block: Fausel Family Lace.

                  White on blue deep as evening sky. Flowers
and stars, earth and heaven. The quilt-trail
doesn’t end here. It goes on, our land’s long story.


—Taylor Graham

The old woman did not slosh the precious
contents of her mop-bucket on the kitchen tiles.
Yes, she was startled when a small masked
frog leaped out. But he might be
a fairytale prince in search of a pond in drought;
or, if only a frog, then a big consumer of flies
and mosquitoes, pesky creatures who drowned
buzzing in her oatmeal or became seasoning
for fried chicken. She wasn’t bitter
about it, that’s just how flies and mosquitoes
are. Although, as background to the story,
they never transform into fairytale princes.

—Taylor Graham

A whim, a lark. A beautiful day.
Get in your car, start driving. Out of town.
That place your buddy mentioned.
Enter it into your GPS. Up the mountain.
Turn left. Dirt road single lane.
Sun-glint off hood, bowsprit of adventure.
Sailing into the unknown.
Down, down off the ridge. No signs.
No view. Road gets rougher. GPS: turn left.
Getting closer. Gas gauge slipping.
Road blocked by rockslide.
Gas gauge says Empty.
Get out, look around. Remote.
Overhead a raven says You’re crazy.
Cellphone deadzone.
List all your resources.
Moonrise. Coyote sings lullaby.


—Taylor Graham

You told me your basket held fire, but that
was long ago. Safer than keeping flame
in your hand, and better for fishing. It was

legend, or history, or a different land
altogether, depending on fluvial phases,
the alteration of the moon. I wondered

if those faces, unmoving on the farmhouse
wall without a smile, could remember
fire-baskets over a night pond, the unseen

underwater moil and hustle, fish rising
to the strange illumination of almost-day.
Those long dead faces leaning out

as if over water—could they appreciate
how lovely the light-struck dark, the night-
birds, how assiduous the hunger?

—Taylor Graham

Through the kitchen with its memories
of how to stave off famine; past
the faces framed on the wall, none of them
happy according to custom back then,
a photograph being solemn as a funeral and
almost as final. The past becoming
a haze in white, black, and gray tones.
Up steep dark stairs to the private
rooms. If I lifted an edge of flower-quilted
spread, what sweetness might escape
musty as a century and a half ago?
An open steamer trunk keeps its secrets
of folded lace and linen. But
someone has thrown a window wide,
so the gauzy curtain leaps to catch
a cold spring breeze. It wants
to be aired out. It wants to
brush a basket-weave of bamboo
along the edges. It wants to dance.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

How many you
How much time
You got?


Many thanks to Taylor Graham and Kevin Jones for today’s riff on wrong decisions and the regrets that proceed therefrom.

Next Saturday, April 1, is the beginning of National Poetry Month! Founded in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets (, National Poetry Month is a way to promote poetry around the world during April each year. Here are some links to participate:

•••General info, including more than 30 ways to celebrate:
•••Sign up for Poem a Day:
•••Download this year's poster:
•••Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day April 27:

 2017 National Poetry Month Poster

Our area will be kicking off NPM with three events on Saturday, April 1, including a poetry reading by the Thursday Workshop folks at Valley Hi-North Laguna Library, 2-4pm; a prose writing workshop by Nick Jaina at the Third Space Art Collective in Davis, 10am-2pm; and the first ever Sierra Poetry Festival in Grass Valley, starting at 9am and featuring Calif. PL Dana Gioia as the Keynote Speaker, plus lots more goings-on at the Sierra College Nevada County Campus. Decisions, decicions—you’ll have some to make that day!

Meanwhile, don’t forget tonight’s Poetry in Motion read-around in Placerville, 6-7pm, at the Placerville Sr. Center; and then back to Sacramento as Sac. Poetry Center presents William O’Daly and JS Graustein and their new book of poetry and photography,
Water Ways, at 25th & R Sts., 7:30pm. And of course Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe is always happening on Thursday nights, 8pm.

Another workshop: on Sunday (4/2), Sac. Poetry Center presents a Spiritual Activism Writing Workshop with Ana Castillo at SPC, 10am-1pm,; later that day, she will read at Avid Reader, 2pm.

And Taylor Graham and Katy Brown will facilitate a poetry workshop this coming Sunday, Capturing Wakamatsu, in Placerville, 2-4pm. Info and reg. information:

Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info (and workshop registrations about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


 Celebrate National Poetry Month!

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