Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Three Poems by Taylor Graham


5 a.m., she vaults onto the pillow - 
no easy landing. “Wake up!”

She never learned to puppy-pile, 
cuddle comfort against a mother's belly.

She's all angles - elbow, hock, 
shoulder-blade knocking against your 

sleep. Machine of intricately 
meshed gears on a drive-train spine. 

Pure energy and moving parts. 

You wake up cursing her knuckle 
in your eye. Nothing in your life is safe

now. She roughs the cat and rags 
the old dog, she rearranges the living

room. And then she unwinds
in a flash, on her back before me

for a tummy-rub, her tongue a flick
of love against my hand. Then

up and running, she's a constant change 

of plan. Shall I ever discover the sweet 
puppy wrapped in steel-spring?


It pulls her out the doorway, down the hill. 
Something new to a dog's nose.

This old world looks just the same to me,
dried out by drought at summer's end.

Nothing green or freshly minted -
but everything's new to a dog's nose.

Take this stone, whitewashed 
by last winter's floods -

just a chunk of creek-bottom rock - 
ecstatically new to a dog's nose,

with a tough scrim of dried-on fluff  
like old meringue. My dog scrubs

it with her breath; inhales its common 
wonder, new to a dog's nose,

a come-hither scent that's got her
creeping on her elbows

for a closer sniff. Secrets I'll never
know; new to a dog's nose.


This morning's first
light for a neglected pup 
who lived
in a crate, his life 
sieved through wire.

What does any dog desire
but to let the wild 
fire of sun,
wind, earth stir him 
to run for the horizon? 

Give him just one
to tug his end of leash, 
to make the rules 
bend; to fly.

Now just watch
the two 
of them dash by -
so happy 
under sky. Alive.
Taylor Graham is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler in the Sierra Nevada. She's included in the anthologies Villanelles (Everyman's Library, 2012) and California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University, 2004). Her book The Downstairs Dance Floor was awarded the Robert Philips Poetry Chapbook Prize. Her current project is a collection of dog poems, about living with her canine search partners over the past 40 years.

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