Thursday, November 01, 2018

Turkeys, Ghosts & Black-Bean Chili

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


I saw birds for sale on Main Street—hens and
roosters, ducks, geese, a partridge, peacock,
quail, even a flamingo—in artists’ imaginings
of what colors a fowl might be. Each bird
striking, bold, unmoving.

Back home, through the window I see three—
four, five—wild turkeys sauntering
past the woodpile, pecking acorns off summer-
dull stubble. No two of them quite alike, each
so delicately muted,

I couldn’t say what color, except that I prefer
them to the artificial kind. And then
they’re gone, out of sight, no word when
they’ll be back. At least the artful Main Street
birds stay put. Unmoving.


At home, black-bean chili’s savoring in
a Dutch oven, cozy-warm with pumpkin and
spiced with chipotle’s smoky-ember.
It’s waiting for me as I drive the highway packed
with apple-pickers headed for foothill farms.
Here’s the season for Granny Smith pies, recipes
passed down generations. Pioneer families
settled those fruitful hills above deep canyon,
South Fork flowing out of sight. My boots
know that country. Hikes on brisk fall days;
big-leaf maple turning. On a muddy track
through woods, fresh bear-print. When leaves
are done with changing, there’s ice on puddles,
a crunch underfoot on our walks; fireworks-
sparkle of frost as my dog bursts through pearly-
everlasting brittle with fall. Remembering
almost brings me home to that pot of chipotle
chili kept warm on the iron stove.

    for George Peabody

                The past pulls you
inside brick & masonry walls, up stairs of the old
Gold Rush soda works. You lose all track
of present passing time.
       Daylight dims. Downstairs, no voices,
no footsteps. Lights are out. Door’s locked.
Iron shutters. You have no key, no cellphone,
you’re quite alone.
                No. You intuit a human
presence. She lets you know her name is Molly.
Use your head! she points to the locked door.
Your hand just fits through the mail-slot.
                       Out on Main Street,
two teenage girls startle at your wiggling fingers
like they’d seen a ghost. You’re saved.
                               Is Molly real?
Have ghost-hunters come to find her
with all their paraphernalia—cameras, audio
recorders, sensor meters, dowsing rods?
        Would Molly offer them
a clue?

    Wine and Art Fest, Main Street

Here we sit street-side, poetry buskers
without a drop of wine in our cup. All around us,
rush of festive downtown’s brought to life after dark.
Gallery art is paired with just the right crush;
on the street, musicians—their rhythm sneaks into my
fingers as I pound on antiquated keys, a typewriter
which, years ago, taught me to print letters on paper.
A poem? As wine strikes the fancy tonight,
this old manual Royal portable is true vintage.
In the right hands it could perfectly pair
our common words with art.


Must be a spook who sent this e-greeting—
an ancient castle in dark of a moon-lit night.
No pathway to the door until a scarf
of brightness flits from torch to torch mysterious
as the latest remote technology. An empty suit
of armor holds a flaming bowl. The face-guard
opens—whoop! a mouse pops out. Could this
be our own old house? dim even with all
the bulbs turned on, and haunted by mice who
flit from trap to trap tripping them then
slipping away. What can they harvest in this
house? All our foodstuffs kept safe in metal
and glass. Rodents must subsist on trap-bait and
sleight-of-paw, shredding old important papers
and plastic produce bags. As calling cards
they leave small scat and this Halloween puzzle.


He’s learned the art of cleaning chimneys
in our land of seasonal snows, damps, smoke
from wood-stoves rising in winter skies. 

Santos comes down the ladder grimy
with soot. He still speaks with the lilt of his
homeland. How did he come
to my neighbor’s roof—to this country?

So many from the other side of desert
traveling at night, praying not to be robbed,
praying for water. Desert of cinder
cones and cactus blooming Pascua flowers.

Skilled at tasks we’ve lost the knack for,
Santos teaches his son to be his helper,
to dream of more. Families stay together.

Now he moves on to the next job
as the Land-of-the-Free breeze cools him
at his work. A man whose mother
named him Saints so far below Heaven.   


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Ghosted downtown. Inside ancient walls, a spirit
sits the ancient historian down on a stool
in the corner like a time-out kid in one-room
schoolhouse, arms crossed over his chest, patient
pout on sober mouth, light dims window-
glass, as if walls held history as their hostage.


Thank you, Taylor Graham for winding up our Halloween season with fine poems and photos, and leading us into Thanksgiving month with her turkeys! This Sun. (11/4), from 10am-2pm, Taylor Graham and Katy Brown will facilitate a poetry writing workshop,  Observing Autumn at Wakamatsu Farm. Please call to sign up, and for carpool meeting location (Placerville). Suggested donation: $5/members, $10/non-members. Contact to sign up, or call 530-621-1224. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

And if you’re in the mood for poetry and open mic tonight, Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe begins at 8pm, 1414 16th Street, Sacramento.


 —Anonymous Photo
(Celebrate Poetry!)

Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.