Thursday, February 22, 2018

Don't Call It A War

Outside Theater
—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


That Valentine morning, seven
wild turkeys. Three hens on the sidelines,
observing four toms a-bloom.
Each tom’s tail a splendor of amber-
bronze glinting early sun; a veritable bouquet
of feather. It must be the day
of choosing. There aren’t enough ladies
to go around. Each tom’s puffed to the max,
jutting beard, snood engorged.
I ask the hindmost lady, who will be
her Valentine? Only a turkey hen can judge
the true worth of tail-feather display.

 February Dawn


Above the Valley, head toward winter
up in the foothills where old-time Gold Rush
craziness settled down to ranches, farmland,
vineyards. Scattered towns, no real cities;
County seat like a throwback to the last century.
Where they set out driving cattle to upcountry
cow camp meadows, you might see a low
building with no apparent sign out-front to say
they make custom Western belt buckles.
No Pegasus grazes spring buttercups. It’s winter.
But somewhere hereabouts, Percherons
at pasture, sun glinting off black haunches. 

 March Swale


March fresh as uncut grass
in a basket above the canyon dark.

A toddler falls behind the older kids,
he becomes the hunt.

Check that siphon-creek
under the road,

the old dry ditch a little higher,
remnant of gone history.

They dug and mined this ridge
in Gold Rush days.

A two-year-old can crawl
under thickets of manzanita.

Just two strands of wire
fence off a mine shaft 900 feet deep.

Hasty teams, mantrackers, dogs
and listening-posts through the night.

Birdsong at dawn—
what is its feathered message?

Spring-lift of air up the ridgetop
lilts a search dog’s nose.

The boy has found no Easter eggs.
He only wants his mama.



We searched the wetlands in a tule fog.
No breeze, or just enough for stirring demons—
darker wisps of water-breath above the current.
You could toss a silver dollar and never see it
again. Were we looking for a body sheeted
in cold, or an old man wandering between stuck
sedan and nowhere? Sound and scent diffused
in fog, fluid as water. Everywhere. No foot-
prints to forge a line of prose to its conclusion.
Ellipses of fog.

 Shale and Ivy


Imagine fog, a lane falling off the road
with its cross-hatch xings, SLOW signs. Silence.
The lane fell away. At its end, a wide gate
closed. Narrow passage between house and hill—
cut-bank under cloud-woods. Path edged
with masks, no face inside. Stone torso weeping
water-veils into a basin. The figures
locked your eyes. A keypad kept its secret code.
You rang the brass bell. No footfall, no
answer. A dog barked once, inside, and then
was still. Listeners? You turned to leave.
A faint voice far away. Wordless as a child
lost in woods, voice consumed by
weather. Follow that sound. No one. The voice
again, moving opposite, dodging, distant.
Listening-post with a button—eye without
a pupil. It said RING. Voice dispersing
from above: what do you want? None of this.
Nothing from a voice without human listening.

 HT Creek


Is the old house nothing but history now,
its façade shedding bricks like sloughed-
off skin? But the bats and the barn owl—
and the old ghost you sensed in the attic.
Did you dare climb the failing stairs?
And is a ghost memory or history? how
fallible? Every evening wings pare open
the dark, close it up again before dawn.
Outside, new spring grass skirmishes
with wetland-creek for possession
of the swale. Don’t call it a war. 

 Daffodil in Gopherweed

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

A blank public room full of switch-lights
and recycling air; full of old folks come to learn
subjects they never found time for. I’ve
wiped the fog from my glasses—I with poems
in my hands, a scrim of dust on my boots.
Friends and strangers ask questions of everyone.
Here’s the old veterinarian, retired from
taking care of dogs long gone. The once-hiker
of wilderness sits stiff in a folding chair.
New lessons for us all as, outside,
sun quizzes the flowering quince on what
its blossoms remember about spring.


—Medusa, thanking Taylor Graham for her fine poetry and photos this morning!

 —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.