Thursday, January 11, 2018

Climbing Out of Winter

January Morning
—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Crows black in the cold crowd sky to the east.
They’re gone. Rain comes cold and black, whips
dry creek till it runs, leaps, bucks. Will it take
the one-lane road, the bridge to town? We ask,
we read old books for news. It starts once more
to rain. Don’t count the drops. Check a way out.


In the fenced garden and fields, in hollows
underneath, ground-squirrel burrows.
Those small brown gluttons ripen
like cabbages. While we’re not watching,
they scuttle and feed, sleep and multiply.

So many, they fall through the talons
of hawks. Every summer we curse

their daylight dashes, watch our tended rows
vanish, tooth by tooth; almost give up

on harvest. Is it worth planting gardens?
Those old years gone—Look,

in the field: patient as time, as if stopped
in its evolution; prehistoric
silhouette of blue heron, hunting as Time

does, as if motionless, moving
without seeming its yellow eye, its sun.

 Iron Marker

thanks to Caschwa’s “Go Back, Maga Style”
(Medusa’s Kitchen, Jan. 1, 2018)

In the early days, a vast new frontier spread out
from this hilltop that still overlooks pasture
with a few brown cows; an old barn that leans
with wind. Grind of gears on the two-lane
highway just out of sight. I can’t make out
the name on this marker. Looks like Samson
Tolan, whoever he once was. Engraved-in-stone
won’t guarantee against lichen and weather;
and this marker is only wood, old as most
of the living oaks that shade these grounds.
Tolan—what kind of name is that? So many
who came here for their fortune brought
an accent. Chinese, Chilean, French…. Samson
turns a deaf ear to noise of metal against rock—
a posthole digger?—through leafless woods
beyond graveyard fence. Fences as far as a living
eye can see. Samson’s got his property rights—
if Progress doesn’t try to relocate the cemetery
permanent residents and all.


He’s got the first-sun spot
on a January morning. Barber shop
just lit up its OPEN but he’s not waiting
for a trim. Rusty beard, a yellowed many-folded
paper—too old to be today’s want ads—
laid out carefully on concrete.
He leans over as if harkening a mantra.
Beside him lie fanned-out printed half-sheets;
poems for sale or a donation?
As the sun rises he stands up, full cold winter
light in his eyes, blinding uplift of morning.
It’s a new year. Where will he go?


A king deposed from household, no castle left,
only his queen, his Cordy—faithful dog—
to ease an old man without means, bereft.
Tonight, unnoticed as a punky log.

The town is fenced and gated against guests
without the wherewithal to pay. Requests
for handouts are beneath him. Here he stays
in welcome woods, a dog to cheer his days.

He had a title once, a key, the crown
of ownership, a bank account, a car.
Without that trumpery he’s trash, a clown,
a good-for-nothing with a burned-out star.

Now, lacking standing, he can walk or lie
between dead leaf-fall mattress and the sky.
He’s learned to vanish between field and bog
with all his retinue, his aging dog. 


The turtle’s in his winter sleep, child,
and all but the snow birds have flown away.

The turtle’s cozy in his shell that fits
the space he’s dug in earth below the freeze.

When spring comes, child, he’ll wake;
climb back up encumbered only by himself.

The birds, returning, build their nests
to last till fledging of their birdlings, child.

Don’t you feel that rising of the spring,
of only keeping what you need for flying?

Child you were, years ago and still,
in spirit. Climb up and out of your winter.

 January Swale

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

I’m going to open up this cluttered house
and let the wind sweep out the useless mess—
some crumbs and tattered papers for the mouse
and all the windows streaming daylight, yes!


January thanks to Taylor Graham for fine poems and pix as we start to struggle out of this California winter! If you’re of a mind for a short road trip, drive over to Winters tonight for the monthly Winters Out Loud open mic at Berryessa Gap Winery on Main Street, 7pm. Or the weekly Poetry Unplugged meets at Luna’s Cafe, 1414 16th St. in Sacramento tonight at 8pm, with features and open mic. 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.


 Ground squirrels aren’t the only thieves. . .
—Anonymous Photo
Celebrate the poetry of crows!

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
to Medusa.