Thursday, April 12, 2018

Vetch and Shooting Stars

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


From the barn loft comes a purling coo
above an arrangement
of empty basin and long-necked bottles
on a block. Scent of cattle lingers
from cows long gone.
Outside the slatted barn-shade, spring
ratchets up the heat
so a rusting tractor seems to hum
in its open shed. Never will its wheels
roll out again, muffled by soil,
but it can dream
as sun rubs against its fender.
Winter rains have found a way inside,
running down the walls, leaving
stains on wood-grain to trick the eye
with beasts of the trees.
Everything’s still-life, long past its use
except that perpetual purling coo.
But look! to the east, two tall
curves of partial rainbow, its arch
broken by earth’s atmospheric
haze and the central glory of blinding,
rainbow-bracketed sun.


The full Sap Moon sets into Easter morning—
heaven’s bright, reflective headlight
piercing window-glass to strike the dark office.

Night is beautiful, chill white eye behind lashes
of oak branch leafing out. In the old month,
bursting toward spring, I kept mistaking leaves

for feathers. Trick of sight, birds and plants
mimicking each other in the surge to flight.
In daylight the blue heron perches

atop a snag in the midst of rusty lagoon—
live bird in a land seemingly done to death,
betrayed by man’s pick and shovel.

But the land rises again in spring. Vetch
and shooting-stars. The heron in silhouette—
El Greco saint or archangel of another life order.

Easter daylight opens the dark caves—heaps
of dug-out rock from mining days—
to give me just a peek at Earth’s secrets.


She’s had enough of her own un-kind—
half-man half-horse savaging down on her
village, snatching every soul she’s known.
Even the children carried off for slaves.
She couldn’t save them. Those traders left
her nothing but shattered legs soon turned
to gangrene. Dying in her own skin. She
accepts the trade as she must. Tonight
she’ll let Coyote take her, far from
the miseries of a human world.


There’s a poem here, somewhere
on the other side of chainlink fence. That
shaft, excavated by hard hand-labor—

textured layers of topsoil, roots, and shale
cut away in search of treasure. Gold.

My kitchen could almost fit in this pit.

I’m focusing my camera lens, but
fence gets in the way. I love the twining—
roots or vine—across the mouth cut into rock.

I can’t get at their digging—how far
underground; the mine’s secret.

What did those forty-niners find here?

A fenced-off photo fails at what the eye
can see. At the rough-edges, spring green
works to lace things back together.

Layer on layer. What could a poem
uncover, or obscure?


15 minutes of glory on stage with amplified
sound. Then the poets moved on, itinerant,
peripatetic, down unmarked pathway
to the ponds, a circle of rough benches flanked
by reeds the wind played through—
a chill wind for so late in April. Silence—
an almost quaker waiting for the spirit to move.
Then someone began a poem about a fish.
If the pond had fishes, they listened to waves
of words through water. Maybe they
clapped with silent fins. Another poet read
his sestina about the septic line that nourishes
his pines in drought. Who says that
funny can’t be profound? its edge between
fancy and truth, there by the pond, the bodies
of seven ponderosas lying with their crowns
in meadow, victims of drought. At last,
the last poem rippling pond water, piping
breath through pines still living and reeds
along the shore.


Songs and stories, history, legend, poems
inside those books. Now the old book-nook’s
closing. Tiny shop so stacked with words,
no woodstove’s needed. Trust the books to keep
you warm. We’d read our poems on words
from a wicker basket. Seasons of verse around
the table. Where will poets meet when the book-
nook closes? They say a bookstore in this
little town could never turn a profit. Maybe
that’s not the point, if you can live on poems.


We’re walking past the artists co-op—it’s 3rd
Saturday ArtWalk, Main Street’s alive
with color, texture. Could that be a young guy

hunched over an old manual typewriter, typing?
He glances up at us, eyes far off. Does he
even see us? Fingers laboring the keys, click-

clack click-clack-clack. Hand-written signs taped
to his little table: Pennies 4 a Poem! Poems
4 a Song! Yield to Poetry! Never Stop Dreaming!

A busker of words—tin cup for donations.
“Hang on,” he says, “I’m on my last line. There!
done! a masterpiece in 10 minutes. That lady

“should be back any time. She’ll love this ode
to her calico cat. Want to hear it? “How about
a poem for yourself, on the spot?” Already

he’s rolling a clean white sheet onto the ink-
black carriage. How could we stop him?


Today’s LittleNip:

Listen, real poetry doesn’t say anything; it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can walk through any one that suits you.

—Jim Morrison


Our thanks to Taylor Graham for her poetry and photos today, ticking off the possibilities as we continue to celebrate our recent Seed of the Week: Poetry. Tomorrow, Friday the 13th at 5:30pm, Georgetown branch of the El Dorado County Library presents Taylor Graham, Kevin Trammel, Michael Paul, Poetry Out Loud finalists plus open mic, as part of the El Dorado Arts County’s Poet Laureate Trail Series. That’s at Georgetown Library Branch, 6680 Orleans St. in Georgetown. Free! Info:

Tonight in Winters, Deborah Shaw Hickerson hosts Winters Out Loud open mic at Berryessa Gap Winery on Main St. in Winters. And Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento presents Bill Carr plus open mic, 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.

For more about Eklepakan, see and scroll down a bit.


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.