for the Belltower Girls
I meant it to be a love poem for the girl
they were looking for thirty years ago,
disappeared off Main Street.
It was front-page for weeks. They searched
all over the forest till a camper found her
behind a fallen log. Dead.
But my poem wasn’t just for her, but also
for the other girls found miles apart,
behind logs in the forest. Mostly it was
for that girl discovered on a ridge just above
where I’d walked my dogs, thirty years ago,
a forest road in June, dogwood blooming,
columbine and foxglove on the creek.
I felt a shiver. I hadn’t heard of the missing
girls. Did my dogs sense it on the wind—
her scent, her spirit? I called them back,
drove quick as I could away, to town. Some-
thing in me didn’t want to know
what it knew; what poems can’t save.
No love poem; a poem of loss.
There’s foxglove and columbine in it.
We set out to count our losses.
It wouldn’t take a long walk to see how much
a profligate storm can break: big oak fallen
on the driveway; barnyard a gooey mess. Creek
running, leaping in swirls and coils gouging
a new path through rock—rimrock, river rock,
boulders. Any of it volcanic? unknown histories
of this place we call solid earth. Stop
and listen. From down-swale, wander-gobbling.
Without a roof against storm, wild turkeys
have lived to talk about it, and peck
fallen acorns, and talk about it some more.
QUARTZ HILL WHISPERS LOSS
No memorial at the foot of hillside,
this far from the land those people came from,
to end up here under grass where nothing
is level as a homely platter but all canyon and
ridges, hollowed-out mines. Here was pest-house
in the epidemic—gone now. An eerie place
but not frightful in the way of superstition
or horror tale; a hospital where those indigents
died. Breeze whispers a brotherhood
under soil. Annual grasses cover their bones;
the iron-spoke markers have rusted away.
Today the homeless have pitched a tent
as if they mean to stay.
PROFITS AND LOSSES
The waiting room reminds me of my vet’s,
not a tax service. Ladies at the counter
are discussing rodents. Beagles are great
at ferreting out ground squirrels, but would they
accept a garage cat to deal with mice?
Ground squirrels—one lady’s son’s a whiz
with airgun-darts; is he for hire? I add
my 2 cents on mice shredding important papers
for their nests. I guess I’m more at home
with vermin than with the tax code.
In the exam room—sorry, this isn’t the vet’s—
in the cubicle with tax expert,
somehow our conversation gets around
to dogs and horses. The lady loves
Morgans and German Shepherds. I walk out
in a glow—nothing to do with taxes.
ELEGY FOR A SEARCH DOG
Wind is a blade that scythes the sky
and my dog was first to run out
catching fragments of news up a swale,
up canyon, from the far valley
then leading me on trail—off any trail but
wise to the wind—
the track a man might wander, lost.
How wild sky sieves through underbrush
and swirls in a pool with light
glazed ice-brilliant, so many colors
That dog would range
below the campanile hill, up
scree slopes above timberline
where westerlies wing over the crest.
Who follows the wind
disappears in a gust or a long exhaling
always finding the way to go.
DREAM-LOSS HAS NO END
A dog’s lost in dream,
running the ditch between speed-
way and winter green,
running undetected and
car on ice, the glitch of care-
lessness, a sleight or
twitch of physics—fallen in
ravine? A dog lost
in dream won’t be found by dream-
ing. The witch of night-
mare holds that dog pristine but
gone. Wake up! The dog
is keen for daylight, in bed
beside you. Your mind
is the hitch, still caught in its
story, dog lost in your dream.
In such winter storm
watch the loss of just one flake
joining the snowpack
forming a ridgeline cornice
waiting to rush down the slope.
Thanks to Taylor Graham this morning for her haunting poems of loss and snow and buildings long-since fallen. We’ve had two good-sized snowfalls in the foothills this year, and the Grahams’ dog, Loki, seems to find it all very interesting.
Just a reminder that tonight at 11:59pm is the deadline for submissions of artwork and poetry to Crossroads Reading Series and Amber Moon Press’s for their annual chapbook series celebrating National Poetry Month in April. Email 3 poems and/or 3 jpeg images of artwork to AmberMnPress@gmail.com/. Drawings and paintings in any media are preferred. Photographs will also be considered. Info: www.arts.ca.gov/opportunities/acdetail.php?id=361901&amfbclid=IwAR0gIyprkOS_KyHGNlDbGY9lKcFEO7-6Me682Yi6LAVdwdYGEVqDJAS8kTM/.
—Photo (and Quote) by Taylor Graham
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