Thursday, June 6, 2013

Three Poems by Taylor Graham

“It was meant to be,” we say, when
on a common Wednesday, we're driving
into unknown territory,
we don't know what off-ramp or
where to go from there, but 
somehow we end up at the address. 
The promised princess - 
purebred, puppy of royal Russian lines - 
appears a beast.
Well, you've heard the story before, 
it's in all the fairy cautionary 
tales. A mischief 
sneaks through your door, past good sense.
Nothing as it seems,
it's all enchantment, or disguise.
Better judgment gives way to 
“it was meant to be.” 
This is how she came here. 
I call her name 
and she puts her teeth away, 
remembering a month of instruction, 
and licks my hand. 
I look into deep brown puppy-eyes 
that read my mind. It was meant to be.

This first hot day of summer
Henry wandered off alone, as if thinking
of summers with dogs gone by.
I caught the new puppy by her collar, 
attached a long-lead. “Track 
him!” - something I never taught her. 
But she's nose to the ground, 
and off we go, up the gravel path, across 
blister-blacktop to a chain-link fence; 
a gate - it swings open to a kindergarten 
play-yard; toys of all colors
scattered on the ground. And there 
old Henry's wandering between jungle-
gym and swings as if searching 
for his childhood. And licking his wrinkled
hand, my pup, pupil in the elementary 
school of scent. 
Of searching what's lost; of finding.

after earthquake
Under the broken entry, a human figure
sprawls - long dark tresses starred
with shattered glass. 
Red dress, silk stockings with a seam; 
red spike heels
scattered among beads. 
Avenue blocked by rubble. Streetlamp 
that ought to be lit by now, but 
isn't, on this evening after earthquake. 
My search dog walks right by the fallen lady. 
I bend down to check - she's a 
mannequin, wig askew on bald synthetic head. 
My dog is looking for real people. 
I switch on my flashlight, 
follow her inside to darker dark.
Taylor Graham is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler in the Sierra Nevada. She's included in the anthologies Villanelles (Everyman's Library) and California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present. Her book What the Wind Says, poems about living with her canine search partners, is due out later this year.

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