Thursday, August 03, 2017

Flying Up the Mountain

Looking 'Way Down
—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Imagine that distant fire-storm that made this
place. No strike-anywhere match, no
pyrocumulus over the summit. Just the pulse
of inner-earth hotter than July. A sound
almost lost on a summer weekend. Certain
passages repeat themselves, and then
the variations of time and weather. Erosion.
I’m following a line of boats on trailers, pickups
with ATVs headed for peace of the mountains.
By the third campground, most of them
turn off. It’s hot. AC is all four windows rolled
down. I hear a radio—or TV, some
electronic device streaming news of the world
way up here. Could it record the music
of creation under our feet, our wheels? Let’s
keep going off the official map into quiet,
let’s try to hear the pulse of the mountain.

 Above Bridge


On the first steep grade, edge of cliff
I’m behind a jeep with teenagers hanging out
the sides yelling at the SUV between
me and them whose driver takes any chance
to swerve off the shoulder. Is it a dual
dance of two vehicles or duel
to the driving-death, the SUV feinting
right wheels against dropoff
for no reason I can see but to scare some
body on this landscape of gaps—
no guardrail—abstract of creation
by lava flow all the way from central
Nevada to here, then deluge
gouging volcanic rock and ash into
canyon. None of us has wings.
Nothing’s straight or level.
Switchbacking road, river to sky.
I stay between the lines,
eyes to pavement, letting the
land take care of itself.
Wishing for turnout, a trail, dust
on my boots. Note I scribbled to my
self leaving home: look for aspen.

 Enigma Pond

    a mirrored refrain

We’ll walk the path to the lagoon,
just a short way, and then walk back.
Look! an enigma. Dragonfly,
living bi-plane, white wings edged in black.

I thought dragonflies came in blue
or amber, brilliant to the eye.
Living bi-plane, white wings edged in black—
here’s an enigma dragonfly.

What can it mean, this monochrome
display, B&W bric-a-brac?
It’s an enigma dragonfly,
living bi-plane. White wings edged in black,

it flits dark-bright not like dragonflies,
but bounces sun off flat blue sky—
living bi-plane, white wings edged in black.
It’s pure enigma. Dragonfly!

Side Path Cairn

    a quatern

This morning, overhead, three crows
gave cry I’ve never heard before.
Or have I? Monotone, it rose
like wind across the threshing-floor,

a harsh pulsation at the door
of morning. Overhead, three crows
set off an echo from the core
of silence. Answered then by those

dark flying birds that, I suppose,
are kin to omen, meteor.
This morning, overhead, three crows—
three honest corvids, nothing more,

birds I might seek for guidance or
direction on the compass-rose.
I wonder, were they metaphor
this morning overhead, three crows?

 Worn Out


He doesn’t go trekking anymore.
Not even camping. Old joints too creaky
for sleeping on the ground. But he keeps
his gear in the garage—might come in handy.
Never throw anything useful away.
When it storms, the lights and heat quit—
modern conveniences you just can’t trust.
Old wool balaclava got him through
up-country weather. Moth-eaten,
but it keeps ears and bald-pate from freezing
in his own house. His watch-word:
a scout’s always prepared. Even that rotting
canvas knapsack—makes him feel like
a mountain man again. Tricky wind
at Sierra crest, breath of snow even in July.
That knapsack takes him back,
high enough to fly.

 Conifer Cones


Beyond the resort, and the stop sign
at the campground, pay a fee—
to eat my sandwich?—I pull a U,
drive back to where the land levels out
for trees. No view. On a hunch—
a bare-dirt turnoff where I can’t see
traffic. And here’s a furtive campsite,
fire-pit dead-out. No litter. Inside
a careful circle, someone has made
a gathering: cones of every species of
pine, fir, cedar that inhabits this place.
Random, haphazard, gray-age’d
to freshly flushed with possibility.
I puzzle it out while eating my
sandwich. I gaze at a mandala of this
trip. Bounty without price.



I couldn’t fabricate you, Sierra—
Vulcan bone and blood extruded, tempered
to vistas over deeps and highs, you hide
Lahontan cutthroats that thrive
in saline yet survive a lake so purely blue
it’s sky.
Those ancient atmospheres
you breathed long before I had gills—
no breath but a thought, a sigh of one wing-
feather in the greater will to fly.
Flip open the map,
it’s still just chad, bone-sketch
of how mountains lie. The hike is not
to accomplish but to inhabit,
implant and occupy—salt-sweat,
blister-heel, sun-struck eye.


Today’s LittleNip:

All the day long—

yet not long enough for the skylark,

singing, singing. 

—Matsuo Bashō


Many thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s fine poems and photos of her birthday trip up into the Sierra last week! For more info about the quatern, go to For the mirrored refrain, see

Area poets have two fine readings to go to tonight, one in Sacramento: Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe, 8pm, with featured readers and open mic; and another in Davis, with Mary Moore and Susan Kelly-DeWitt plus open mic at the John Natsoulas Gallery, also at 8pm.  Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


—Anonymous Photo
 Celebrate Poetry!

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