Thursday, May 09, 2019

Earth Work

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA


This wasn’t really a Nisenan Village,

they say—these replica cedar-bark tepees
by ponds where we’ve come to read poems

for Arts in Nature, here in the shadow
of Coppa Hembo, peacemaker,
these ponds with rushes for making beds,

these willows—golden now with catkins—
for fashioning bows and arrows.
They say the tribes here had no drums,

just clapper-sticks; maybe a log laid over
a depression in earth for beating on.
No matter,

we sit in a circle across from replica tepees,
reading poems to the beat of Patti’s hand-drum
and the wood-wind of Gail’s recorder—

no bird-bone whistle.
The land persists. History in its places, in books
and memory, in verse.

Between earth, sky, and water,
we sit with the truth of history and of poem.
We’ll leave younger in spirit if not time.


The handwritten sign says YARD SALE—
TURN HERE. But “here” is a curve between
chipseal and rampant green, no shoulder
to speak of, just a dropoff into wild oak willow
wildflowers annual grasses obscuring a creek
still running with spring. If it’s a yard sale,
there’s no parking. No driveway, no tables,
no price tags. Just green.


Foxtail fiddle-neck ripgut brome
higher than knee-
high even mantia miners lettuce
lush and leafy flowers
I’m whacking with my weed-
eater making a little
progress—acres to go
behind me cuttings
already turning
into fire season
into drought and brittled
summers hotter
April to December
fire season’s breathing
down the hairs of my neck.


Flowers and labor,
my weed-eater whacking down
thistle and grasses
with blue dicks and fiddle-necks,
then plant the garden, earth work.


Boulders are fire-
safe, right? But see how grasses
are rooting in rock,
where rainy winters of moss
and lichen softened the way.


There must be an imp in the campanile,
without instruction ringing the bells
louder than songbirds in the woods around;
louder than the wild mother goose
answering a skein passing over—a climax
of cacophony that would send Friar
Tuck straight out of the May Games
wielding his staff every-which way.
But just this morning,                 silence—
as if every mis-rung bell tone were all
used up, a shroud of silver mist
muffling sound. And then, a jubilation
of ringing. Did the imp grow up? or
did an inspiration step through the door
to give him some instruction?


Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Butterfly on flower
orange and purple—which are
wings, which petals?


Thank you, Taylor Graham, for your imps and butterflies on this 9th day in May! Wellspring Women’s Writing Group meets today at 11:30am in Sacramento, and Straight Out Scribes will be at Luna’s Cafe and Juice Bar in Sacramento, along with open mic, tonight at 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.

—Medusa, celebrating poetry!

 Poets celebrating poetry at the Arts in Nature Festival 
in Georgetown on Earth Day
(For more about El Dorado County poetry events, 
including more photos of recent readings, check 
Western Slope El Dorado Poetry on Facebook at
—Photo by Taylor Graham  

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.