—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
for the wild apple forest of Kazakhstan
and the tended orchards of Apple Hill
Just short of Eden the apple went wild, a forest of trees,
fruit of seeds dissimilar as Cain from Abel, disseminated
over earth for lovers to walk beneath apple blossoms
dreaming of futures ungrafted, the original, unbitten fruit.
You’ve peeled and sliced lengthwise—not
for perfect pie, but rough-shod cobblers,
fame of the farmer’s table. You’ve
pressed tart cider to vinegar with
bacteria. Dried apple crescents stored
in pantry dark, pale moons that bide before
frost for lovers dreaming winter’s unbitten fruit.
Pink-blossom ridges of ur-apple forest burned,
charcoal to the core. On wind, apple-ash hovers.
Bless our unbittered foothill ridges, apples sweet
enough for seed and blossom and lovers.
Wind plays roadside grass
as I drive—motion, motive force
of mountains and these spring-green hills
sprung from Valley that once was sea.
Field and pasture, counterwaves of buck-
brush breaking the green tide in foamy
white blossom. From the shoulder
of Thompson Hill, the countryside rises
in distance-haze toward forest
and the Crystal Range. A perfect picture—
ruined for my lens by the wavy scrub-jay
flight of powerlines beside the road.
Reminds me how the mind filters out man-
made intrusion. Already I’m past
the vista. And here, someone’s fitted
dredger-stone in a wall across the green
of hill. Grass goes tiding against it in waves
and continues green up the other side.
IN FRONT OF THE FEED & SEED
These flowers of paradise full-blown—
are they tulips? lilies? Adam must have
composed their names. I want to pick
one, take it home. Surely that’s
forbidden. A photo—I might dare.
But how about this withered bloom
that really ought to be dead-headed—
dare I erase it from the view? It isn’t
mine. Better to leave it as it was,
the natural way it grew.
The sheep go browsing lush spring grass
with all the lovely flowers gone to rumination.
Last night I listened for the pirate band,
coyotes’ wooing howl that swirls
and undulates down canyon in the dark,
determined to take a lamb. Last night
they sailed their hunger elsewhere. Here,
by dawn no lovelorn bleat of ewe who mourns
her newborn. Do I hate coyote? She must
feed her pups. Do I begrudge field-blossoms
that sheep nip off with nimble teeth?
In this paradise, what could be forbidden?
By morning light our flock unfurls the swale
to fountain-flowing creek-bed, under soft
tsicka-dee-dee of titmouse in the oak.
If no skylark rises from this field in ecstasy,
our sheep will still lie down contented
in their rumen-moment, meditating green.
I put on my old Sorels, just in case. We’re
exploring ancestral channels, miners’ ditches—
hard to tell what’s what after man rearranges
landscape. New relationships and disjunctions.
Those old miners took out everything
they could. Boulders, topsoil. Once this swale
was level with those rises.
Graveyard for mining activity.
You point uphill, to the dark of woods:
not a trace of mining—haunted Indian village?
We skirt inlets of the lake, man-made
a century or more ago, and smaller ones—
water-filled mines or glory-holes or garbage
Bare vines choking live oak—
old vineyard grape gone wild, or native
honeysuckle? Is it sophistry, trying to decipher,
in an ancient landscape, what’s been done
by man and what the land keeps doing?
Everything’s related. One skeleton
oak tree leafing out at last.
Hours of slogging in heavy boots. Hike done,
I'm glad to pull off the old Sorels and let
my feet breathe free.
An iron-bar gate, locked, guards
the entrance underground—the adit,
horizontal path into the mine,
its mineral veins exposed along
dark corridor, a stone tapestry woven
of precious threads. Ore.
Did they find gold here, before
this place became a park, the mine
shut tight for safety sake?
Bad air in those underground
passages, maybe rotten shoring,
danger of collapse.
I wouldn’t dare step inside to see,
even if this gate were to open-
in April, this wild-growing spring
bursting out of bounds, blossoms of every
flower-color speckling annual grasses
not yet formed to seed-heads, still soft
and lush, not yet spiked and barbed—
this brief lovely season green as Oz,
as wildwood of a child’s fairytale book
still opening its mysteries—
by May Day, turning summer-tan;
neighbors mowing fields,
and I with my weed-eater no longer
sparing lupine and vetch, without mercy
whacking the right-of-way.
This April morning I have this day.
Thank you, Taylor Graham, for these wonderful poems and photos! She writes that her poem, “Boots”, is about “old mining activity at Wakamatsu, which I think will be the focus of our next Capturing Wakamatsu workshop here in Placerville at Wakamatsu Farm this Sunday, May 6, 2-4 pm, with myself and Katy Brown. People can reserve a spot with julie@ARConservancy.org or 530-621-1224.”
Today is a big day in poetry in our area, including the 24-hour annual Big Day of Giving for the arts in Sacramento, which Sac. Poetry Center and Women’s Wisdom ART will be celebrating with activities from 2-8:30pm. (Donate now at www.sacramentopoetrycenter.com/.) Also tonight, Ladies’ Night Out will be happening in Old Sac at 8pm, and in Davis, Stan Zumbiel and Jeff Knorr (plus open mic) will be reading at John Natsoulas Gallery, also at 8pm. Stan is a busy reader this week, heading up to Placerville tomorrow (Friday, May 4) to read at Good Earth Movement Poetry Night on Main Street, 6:30pm.
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.
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