Thursday, July 18, 2019

Otherguess Ways

—Poems and Photos by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

       for the female inmate firefighters

Portable pump and chainsaw,
axe and shovel,
brush jacket and rescue coat—
is she terrified, curls under helmet?
Flames crowning the giant sugar pine,
snaking up the cedar snag.
Furious is fire.
Is it more deadly than life
on the street, in the projects?
She smooths herself
under ash and grit—a central self
under all the defenses—
desiring at the end a long shower,
a cleansing. Sunji, her secret
new name, she’s done something
good for a change.

inspired by Kim Abeles’s Valises for Camp Ground: Arts, Corrections and Fire Management

 Dove Weed


Mourning doves peck at dove-weed
that bursts pale green rosettes through the press
of annual grasses drying in your field.
By the house, lavender died
before you moved in, once tended
by the old lady who herself was past tending,
having given up her property
in the wake of old age. Each spring
makes you realize how nature has its way
with us. The Medieval poet who sang
under der linden…schône sanc diu nahtegal
has passed to his everlasting aubade,
creation as process beyond perfection.
There are no nightingales
in this landscape, but mourning doves.

 Wild Oats

    for CM

A giddy aunt might call him broker of the sun,
how it somersaults east to west across sky and then
it’s gone; this child who won’t fit pasture’s
woven stockwire, unable to stop running circles,
circuits inside a fence while sun sparkles
sprinklers rotating on their silver stalks—water-
fans catching all the colors of light turned
silver as a towhead’s hair, wild oats
in summer sun. Teachers can’t contain him.
Even walls, ceilings with rotating fans
that catch the shape of air swirling sunlight,
each instant already gone recent
yet cycling toward sunrise creating his world.


They didn’t expect to create utopia
at a longitude so far west,
so far from the civilized rigamaroles
they left behind.
        Eerie night silence
creates its own visions, angels
obliterating the trail with unprinted
dust. Better not to listen for
voices of dead friends conversing
with river and stars.
                Carry what they must.
Tallow keeps well upon the trail,
measuring their long miles
on the hoof. Ash is always ready.
They’ve burned their old names.
            The belted kingfisher
is a delight they can’t explain,
hunger hovering above still water.


What shall we do with these poem-
tags cut loose from the Wishing Tree
when the festival was over?

A bamboo trellis that anchored them
against the pressure of wind
stands skeletal now, resembling

a tree barren of leaves, its poems gone.
Creations of so many hands:
haiku sparing adjective; seeking

a sudden truth in so few pen-strokes;
and the tags with wishes
in whatever form a writer cast them,

coins in the fountain of flowing sky;
words let loose on wind
bound for zones beyond our knowing.


Familiar rutted hardpan dead-end’s fenced-off.
No trespass awaiting buyer.
I parked to skulk out otherguess ways—
trampled down summer-dead clicketing weeds.
One chair set as lookout post:
road and bramble and a view of clearing
among trees. Specific: ghost-pine,
oaks live and blue.
A fork; popup tent, 2 stools.
Another choice. O sky thru leafed out branches
alive, blue. Oak’s muscling limbs.
My green arrow points the ways,
I walk with stickered socks for shade.

Today’s LittleNip:


—Taylor Graham

I’m kneeling on linoleum
going through last Friday’s newspaper.
Pastels on exhibit in the gallery
through the weekend—gone by Monday.
Berries fragrant at farmers market,
ripe for eating, get them now!

It’s too late; this is Thursday.
Give up on paper apparitions that are
no more. Get on my feet, get moving out
the door. Let my soles decide
which way they’re going. There’s news
out there, free for the roaming.


Many thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s poems and pix, and to Katy Brown for the Wakamatsu Teahouse photo below. Katy will be reading at The Other Voice in Davis tomorrow night (Friday, plus open mic), 7:30pm. And Taylor Graham will be reading at Poetry in the Sierra Foothills in Diamond Springs at Caffe Santoro this coming Sunday, 1pm (plus open mic), and at Sac. Poetry Center next Monday with Patricia Killilea, 7:30pm.

As for area poetry today, Third Thursdays in the Sacramento Room of the Central Library on I St. in Sacramento meets at noon for a read-around (bring poems by someone other than yourself); Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe and Juice Bar features Izzy LaLa, Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas plus open mic at 8pm, and Poetry in Davis presents The Poets’ Quartet (plus open mic), 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.

For the definition of “otherguess”, see

—Medusa, celebrating, as always, poetry! And here are a couple of bonus poems from Katy Brown, just to remind you of her reading in Davis tomorrow night. “Cowboy” is about one of Taylor Graham’s past search-and-rescue dogs:

—Katy Brown, Davis, CA

He can find you from traces—
your sneeze captured in a tissue,
left under the seat of your car—
the residue of scent
left on your seatbelt or
on your pillow.

Cowboy, the expert search dog—
his nose sweeping the wind
for molecules—tracing you
through your breath, exhaled
in anxiety, or pain, or confusion.

He reads the air like a linguist who
speaks the tongues of other tribes:
go this way to a squirrel nest;
over here, a fawn shelters in the willows;
down this stony path—your human.

Some dogs put noses to the ground,
following the path your sneakers made—
unbraiding your scent from all the other scents
that creatures left who came your way. 
Not Cowboy.

No step-by-step retracing for him;
no winding, exhausted meander over rocks.
Following the trail is for other dogs.
Cowboy maps you in the wind.

—Photo by Katy Brown 

—Katy Brown

You have to want to go—to find the little road that
climbs out of Ferndale—a deceptively charming
country lane through mist that settles in distant hills.

You have to want to see the end of this continent
on our western coast—see the Pacific driven
by Oriental winds.  Hear the roar of unstopped waves,

the sharp artillery-crack when the glassy, cresting sea
collapses—the boom of breakers hitting the rocky shore.
Taste the mist of salt water driven on a relentless wind. 

You will need to take the Lighthouse Road, a gravel track
that runs through stands of pole-thin ghost trees. 
Keep moving if the ford is full of water or ponding mud.

You will be the first to breathe this air that has come so far
on a restless sea—the first to see water driven
half-way across the globe. You have to want to go.

And then you have to want to return to the paved world
—to go back to your walls and silent solitude, embracing
the memory of this last land to treasure in your reverie.   

 Wakamatsu Tea House
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

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.