Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fairytale Forest

What Grows
—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


It’s everywhere underfoot here
among towering ponderosa, this whole
visible countryside of ridge and drainage
where my dog leads me, on search.
A web of dull-green, feathery leaf-lobes
on tough thin stalks kinked every-
which-way. Web, indeed. It catches
the foot mid-stride, grabs the hot-shot’s
Pulaski as he tries to build fire-line.
Maybe nothing else can grow
among kitkitdizze.
It must siphon water from deep
underground even in drought.
But what accounts for that “aromatic”
smell—sticky resin that coats
boots and jeans, my dog’s legs and paws?
She’ll be licking herself clean
the whole drive home, trying to wipe
off a search without a find.
My clothes go in the washer. Technology
hasn’t invented anything to cope
with it. The odor sticks like a bad memory.
Call it bear-clover, mountain-misery.
Make tea of it, like the Miwok. 

 Late September Sundown


Remnants of early settlers, walnut trees
line a stretch of roadside berm overlooking
canyon and ridge beyond ridge
into haze of distant mountains. Overnight
the trees have ballooned filmy-silver;
webby, ghost-like. Fall webworms, or tent
caterpillars weaving their nests?
The world wide web leads me far afield,
doesn’t answer my questions.
What tiny worm makes extravaganza
of our familiar drive? As if masked
for Halloween in their silken
tents, the walnut trees keep their secret.

 Bramble Weave


Click of dog toenails on concrete.
By the Union School District building, Loki
decides our direction: past empty playing fields,
up a steep dirt bank into blackberry bramble,
where wild critters come for purple
August plunder; cobby web of thorns and
self-rooting runners keeping Scotch-broom
at bay, invader of the fringes. Fairytale
forest in the kindest weather, and spooky-
chill in fall when sun slips behind pines.
But this is no forest woven of beasts mythical
or fairy. Just good Sierra woods.
Would our quarry—in shorts and sneakers—
come this prickled way? Sometimes
it’s hard to accept what my dog is telling me.
But, when has she been wrong? Better
hurry before our “missing child” gets caught
in the woods’ web.

 Garage Closed


Where’s the upstairs gallery that rented space
above Main Street? its cubicles and walls
for artists who packed up and left no trace

after the gallery shut down. Blank face
on traffic, Old-West shoot-em-ups and brawls—
where’s the upstairs gallery that rented space

and let the poets in for-free, a grace
of fancy skirting logic, the free-falls
of artists who pack up and leave no trace.

What stays? the memory of a froth of lace,
a sea-glass still-life; and the cobwebbed halls.
Where’s the upstairs gallery that rented space

for sand mosaics, each grain in its place?
The bands march down below, a bugle calls
for artists who packed up and left no trace,

and celebration marks what’s gone apace
and disappeared to history’s brief recalls.
Where’s the upstairs gallery that rented space
for artists who pack up and leave no trace?

 Eye of the Log


This October morning I went weed-eating
up the creek, up rimrock, motor-
scything dry wild-oats high as my shoulder,
and thistle a skeleton of itself; whacking
the summer down to ground; revealing rock
and soil. Up toward the bloody border
where coyotes like to take down a lamb.
Almost to the old silver log, once-live being
allowed to lie there, one season
to the next. It was here when we came,
years ago. Now you want my help,
remaking it to firewood. It might last a week
of burning and then gone to ashes.
What endures? This delicate border. Life
and death; a log to sit on; forgetting.

 Pumpkin Flower

     October retrospect

Sky’s a blue transparency. Rain. Sun.
Drought. Downsized from previous seasons,
my garden of zucchini seeds counted into hills;
tomato starts; pumpkin seeds salvaged
last fall from a jack-o-lantern I found smashed
at the school. My rows were planned
with graphite lines drafted on scratch-paper.
I watered and composted, watched
ground squirrels skitter across the field.
Tiny yellow stars sparked on tomato vines,
great yellow zucchini trumpet-flowers.
One pumpkin, a hard green noggin. The night
marauding began. New shoots nipped off.
Baby tomatoes tooth-marked. Pumpkin
hollowed out from both sides. The plants
kept trying. Beautiful tight fists
of leaves opened, tendrils grasped for hold,
pushed forward; gold blossoms trumpeted.
But where were the bees? Under sky,
earth opaquely guards its secrets.



Collection of doors and corridors, open shaft
of stairs, down—I try to map the turns—
west then south—in my mind. Subterranean?
Now north, a maze of cubicles, a web
of corridors unlit on weekends. It overwhelms
a country soul but not her dog, who leads
the way. He turns off polished tiles—
to gravel. Gravel? in this bulwark building?
sudden daylight—delight in a hidden alcove
growing lush with ferns and fronds
and one red flower—flaw in the garden,
a Coke can trampled into mulch. Like magic,
my dog pushes through jungle. And there
you are, sitting on Sierra earth,
your back against concrete. Blue sky
and waving Sequoia branches overhead,

your secret garden green.


Today’s LittleNip:

I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.

—Henry David Thoreau


Many thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s delicately-webby poetry and photos as she helps us consider one of the recent Seeds of the Week: The Web. Taylor will be reading tomorrow in Placerville, as the El Dorado County Poet Laureate Trail begins at 5:30pm at the EDC Library on Fair Lane in Placerville, along with Poetry Out Loud Ponderosa High School Winner Kaitlyn Stahl; and local poet/English teacher/martial Arts enthusiast Kate Wells.

Also tomorrow is the beginning of the 10th Annual Davis Jazz and Beat Festival at John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis. The Festival begins with the Jack Kerouac Poetry Prizes; submissions for this contest are due TODAY at noon. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

And tonight, 7pm, head over to Winters for the Winters Out Loud Poetry Open Mic at Berryessa Gap Wine Tasting on Main St., hosted by Deborah Shaw Hickerson.


—Anonymous Photo
Celebrate poetry!

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