Thursday, January 25, 2018

Psalms to the Skylark

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Look, overnight they’ve appeared, a stealth-
army under leafless oaks; pushed up
from underground to take over the hillside.

Fungi—mushrooms, toadstools, I can’t tell
the difference. I don’t know their names.
So many species, subkingdoms, phyla….

These specimens, like snow-goose eggs
sunny-side-up—magic of a myco-goose
that just keeps laying gold-yolk.

And this one, wide as a saucer curled
at the edges and foamy as meringue flambé.
And these, puffs brown as popovers.

Consider these iron-gray horseshoes
on hooves to carry a knight to battle. And this
cluster of tiny pleated umbrellas for an elf.

Isn’t it beautiful, this frilly white cup
of midnight rain? beautiful as mystery
working undercover to make its own myths.


In the mail, a slick brochure for torrid lands
of old ruins, gondolas and shady grottos.
I’ve been walking the perimeter of stockwire
fence, my dog with his foot-free dance steps,
dashing away and sometimes coming back
to my recall; hinting at secrets
his nose discovers and I’ll never guess.
Explosion of small brown birds from an oak.
Blossoming of a fairy-ring, crown for
the dynasty of rot; chancy but princely
beautiful. And carpets of miner’s lettuce,
ready to pick for a salad. My dog reminds
me to be grateful for this, the simple
mysteries of green.


The boss is hidden behind his monitor,
computer’s inscrutable code transformed
as he types—I can see his fingers
playing the keys. He’s searching for some
hydraulic something to fold a young
guy’s stuck convertible top
back into its nest, freeing driver to sunlight
and wind in the hair on a pleasant
foothills day. It’s California, where it seems
no one has parts for this convertible’s
top hydraulics. Now the boss
is on the phone to winter-struck New Jersey.
Maybe they have the vital part; the secret
to a drive plein-air, come a sunny day.


Dreamers are out tonight searching
immense universes. Peace, love. Whispers
softer than full-moon tides. No, that’s
our dry creek running water at last, rushing
the boundaries—bridge, culverts—
rising like yeast dough, flowering fungus,
hunger of the masses left behind.
Water armed with branches, leaves, detritus
of lives. This morning Saint clears our
culvert, lets the water run free. He does
the job cheerfully as song. A dreamer
at work. Tides running as ocean
bids. Even here so far inland, wind-fall
finds its place, making new soil.


It must be hard for an old river
to keep on dancing in sunlight, when
it sees, all around, how man grubs and torments
the shore. Slave traders raiding other tribes,
pushing villages to find new land
on the other side, and still no peace.
And the shine of gold luring adventurers
across continents and oceans—all those new-
comers digging bedrock, blasting hillsides,
trying to outdo Nature’s patient work.
Does the river remember that chief
of Hill Nisenan who kept his people safe
from the Indian Wars, inoculated
against smallpox, fostered education?
A judge for all people, blind to nationality
and color. Surely the old river—history
flowing in its path to sea—must have danced
in sparkles of sunlight to see such a man
walking beside its living waters.

for Elihu Burritt the Learned Blacksmith

But did that man ever dance? Too busy
with sledge and anvil, hammering to the beat
of Latin in his head, Greek conjugations,
50 languages for a journeyman blacksmith.
His study was stars in the heavens
and geography of lands across oceans.
Might the mind forge a world at peace?
At last he set the hammer down, keeping
its beat in his heart; setting a cast bell
ringing for congresses of peace. His song
was psalms to the skylark ascending,
to hedgerows giving shade for travelers
and shelter for nesting birds; and children
playing in the green, far from that old
devil’s tattoo—drums and cannonades of war.


White, black, and speckled,
and the odd soft chocolate-brown,
sheep of all colors
and persuasions are herded
by the grid of stockwire fence

from grazed to wild free-
growing, the fiercely green
world of pastured sheep.
Then each lays its sheep-self down
in the shade of ancient oak.

A soft gut-rumble
begins, each sheep turned inward
in meditation.
And the great white dog
sleepless, on guard of his flock.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Driving by, we could feel it in the air—
flying metaphors, segmented sentences
crawling out of the woods to line up
in stanzas he pounded out, key by key.

Maybe he hasn’t caught every word
from the high-‘n’-wild. He never
meant to shoot an image dead—just
capture it, write it down, set it free.


–Medusa, with thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s fine poetry and photos! 

 —Anonymous Photo
Celebrate Poetry!

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.