A HOUSEHOLD TALE
“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.
FIBERGLASS LIFE FORMS
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.