Thursday, July 20, 2017

On the Edge of Calendar

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


Our #2 Barred-Rock hen pretends to be
chicken-warrior rushing the castle, daring
the Queen-clucker in her upper keep—
the favored nest. Premier egg-layer
of the barnyard, #1 hen midlife
without a rooster, no offspring; and here
comes upstart #2 hen in tributary
position, unable to deliver her morning’s
tribute because Queen-hen sits
on the favored nest. Hen #2 is stuck.
Among six boxes, six hens vying for box #1.



Come out and listen to the chickens,
he says. She has better things to do
but he won’t give her any peace
so she goes out and hears the cackling
which really doesn’t sound strange
just normal chatter laying-of-an-egg.

And it’s high time! even one egg
makes her think better of chickens
who consider laying to be strange—
beneath their dignity. They don’t do
much of anything except cackling
loud enough to disturb the peace.

Everyone moves out here for peace
and quiet, feathering a nest-egg,
and sitting on back porches cackling
like so many non-laying chickens
with nothing more in the world to do
but get old and cranky and strange.

But she’s fascinated by the strange
and contradictory, and this peace-
ful life with just the same-ol’ to do
bores her like a sestina, a boiled egg,
a rooster-less bunch of chickens.
He wants her to listen to cackling

like it was a symphony? Cackling
is only hen-conversation—strange
if it didn’t issue from the chickens.
A big event? Oh, leave her in peace.
Too much hoopla like an egg
stuck mid-laying. A great to-do.

She tells him what she’s going to do:
turn the TV on—so much cackling
about things like how to drop an egg
three stories without breaking: strange!
She’d rather hear paeons of peace
in the barnyard among the chickens.

And yes, very strange was the to-do
among the chickens, all that cackling.
But look, they’ve laid two eggs apiece!


    from the poetry workshop

First the enigma dragonfly, white wings edged in black. Someone told of reading Ulysses backwards; hearing Homer in the original tiding lines of ancient Greek. Sun anchored overhead. There were eclipse-dark sunflowers. In the farmhouse kitchen, map of the world in Japanese. Out back, someone left a stuffed Viking teddybear face down/bottom up stuck among three great wooden pylons wound with nautical rope so far from water. The cellar door swallowed us out of summer, rhyolite walls coded by quarrying.

we knelt like raiders
of the dark on rough stone floor
seeking the next clue

 Cellar Wall

    a mirrored refrain

Here to the family home you’ve come
with your camera as to a tourist place.
Here, among the memories, a shade
or is it your reflection, mirrored face?

Ancestors lived here and are gone.
Framed under glass, portraits arrayed—
or is it your reflection, mirrored face
here among the memories? a shade

of sepia locks, camera-stuck stare,
a certain set of mouth, just a trace
here among the memories, a shade—
or is it your reflection? Mirrored face

thrown back at you by picture glass
or optic tricks the camera played.
Or is it your reflection, mirrored face
here among the memories? A shade.

 By Flashlight


Neither charm nor healing, the nightmare
that woke you this morning. It was decreed,
on a certain day very soon, the world will end.
And you’re delegated to push the Kill button.
It’s been on your calendar—for days, or
months or years. You’ve heard the TV news,
every now and then people selling
their possessions, casting off ballast, ready
to be lifted to the next world. And then
it’s postponed. According to the dream which
you’re still stuck in, you’ve got it penciled
in for Friday. But—just half awake—you’re
torn between duty and a wild desire
for life as you’ve known it—silk-soft
hair behind your dog’s ear that needs rubbing; 
the call of a crow, a living murder of crows.
This life on the edge of calendar. 

 Queen Anne's Lace


What can you do? No warning beforehand
of that storm. A week stuck without power or
phone. Snow so deep and heavy, even with my
plow, the pickup couldn’t get out, slid right
into the ditch. No sound of traffic on the main
road, I figured the whole whereabouts was
stuck. Lost its destinations. Coyotes roamed,
conversed in howl. Snow. Time without sound,
without keeping track of. Until the last morning,
the far-out neighbor on the canyon side, Ben—
you never met him—stomped snowy boots
up our back step, wondered if we had food.
Wife broke the last of our eggs in the frying pan,
threw in some veggies provided by the dead
freezer, cooked up a breakfast concoction
for the three of us. That afternoon I managed
to bust out with the truck, took him along to get
his own provisions. Was Ben beholden?
Within a year I brokered a deal, bought his five
wild acres. Never saw him again. Never
again ran out of food for a storm.

 Field in July

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Land of lava fire-red long after it settled
and cooled. Ages ago. Our odyssey ended here,
where river cuts through those ancient
hardened flows, and then another eruption
covers the river. Never-ending, and who knows
where we are in the cycle. How do we subsist?
By poetry that changes unicorns to living horses
who need grass. So we compose as we must,
with whatever words can grow here. We
and the horses sharing a soul. It’s all we have.


—Medusa, with thanks to Taylor Graham for her fine poems and photos today! How do we subsist? “By poetry that changes unicorns to living horses who need grass. . .”

For more about the sestina, go to
For more about the mirrored refrain, see

 Celebrate poetry! 
(Anonymous Artwork)
Noon-time Third Thursdays at the Central Library 
is still on hiatus, but tonight you have a choice of
two area readings: Angela James and CharRon Smith 
(plus open mic) at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento, 8pm; 
or Indigo Moor (plus open mic) at John Natsoulas Gallery 
in Davis, also 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.

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.