How They Got Where They're Going
Early memories jammed into
projects, poolrooms, suburban split-
levels -- what outlaw habits, or one
bad choice, brought them to this place?
Their present bonds are of the psyche
as much as prison bars.
But you come here voluntarily, once
a week, to give theme men a voice,
unchain their thoughts through
metaphor. You bring the generosity
of words. Poetry. Your reward:
to see metamorphosis in their eyes.
Beam me up
to a space I've never seen
and never heard of,
not a tourist attraction nor at war;
some place that's suffered
no human contact
since pre-Industrial Revolution;
out of human time.
I'd wander among plants and animals
left to themselves,
who won't regard me as an enemy;
some place I can't identify
by name or position
on a geo-political map
and -- waking --
can't return to again,
to see how we've changed it
in my lifetime.
Letter to You in the Other Seat
Our trip yesterday up the mountain --
you should have been driving, corner of one
eye on the road while you appraised ridges
and canyons -- miles of skeleton pine and cedar.
You'd tell me about the forest coming back
after fires you fought when you were younger,
when you could still pass the step-test.
You'd tell me how this fire was hotter, more
unpredictable, born of climate change.
You'd point to small green coming back --
deer brush, bear clover. But you're far away
in the passenger seat, while I drive
and tell you what the landscape looks like now;
if you could remember how it used to be --
hardpan forest roads we'd drive, wondering
where they went; their names on wooden signs
burned away now like your eyesight
and your memory. I'd wait for you to tell me
the forest will come back. And I'd believe it, if you'd come back too.
Taylor Graham is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler and served as El Dorado County's inaugural Poet Laureate. She's included in California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present; California Fire & Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology, and elsewhere. Her latest collection is Windows of Time and Place (Cold River Press, 2019).
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