Monday, March 25, 2013

Three Poems by Taylor Graham


Every day is a surprise.
At edge of greenwood, I said “go find!”
My dog knew, I meant a human: Frank. He'd hide
so he'd never be discovered
among trees so dense, only a compass kept me
from fairytale circles. Poison ivy, greenbrier
twined through trees. Everything gets lost here.
And Frank?
My dog came ranging back - her head popped up -
quick turn, mid-stride - disappeared
in green - came back with that look in her eye.
She bucked a pirouette
in front of me, whirled around, nosed into green.
I saw nothing but thicket. Green.
Pivoting, she stared at me, stared
into green. Leaped in. A gasp - squeal -
“HELP!” and Frank crawled out, head to toe
in camo. My dog found the disappeared-
in-forest. A Green Man. Trickster
Pan, Puck, Loki - the shape-shifting
spirit of trees.


It's one of so many,
uncountable as earth bounty
bundled in 25-lb bags for juicers.
What's sweeter? Hands-and-
knees grubby then scrubbing
at sink, growth rings and
wrinkles, under-nail cubbies
still hording soil. A carrot
never forgets where it came
from, pointing earth-center,
even after I've lopped off
its feathery air-praising tops,
its green wings. Deep red-
golden as fire-mulled supper,
the carrot sweetens a stew.
Raw-crisp it softens the puppy
whose wild kitchen antics
beg for a bone. The carrot
less bloody satisfies -
see the dog at ease in her
corner holding, with
carefullest paws, and
gnawing the root,
the ring finger
of peace.


A thin, neon-green ghost floats, dog-level, through moonless October woods - darting, pausing, moving faster as it weaves between trees. My dog following her nose. Since nightfall we've been searching for a child.

The green wand - Cyalume light-stick on my dog's collar - disappears again into dark. I remember other forests full of spirits. Deer, snake, rabbit. Hermit who hiked tangled trails, quite at home. Small girl in search of elves. Old man hanging from an oak tree. Scent of deadfall, years of leaf-decay.

My dog ranges ahead. I watch for green shimmer, then shine my flashlight on the ground. Step over a log. What lies on the other side? Memory of an old woman caught fast in bramble vines; a murdered child. The boy we're looking for. My dog will tell me.

twig-snap in the dark
gnarled roots reach out to grasp
a light through trees

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; What the Wind Says is due out in 2013.

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