Taylor Graham is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler and served as El Dorado County’s inaugural Poet Laureate (2016-18). Her poems are included in California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Heyday Books), Villanelles (Everyman’s Library), and California Fire & Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology. Latest book is Windows of Time and Place (Cold River Press).
— for Elijah McClain
waving his arms loosening muscles maybe
like violining to soothe stray cats—
walking home from
wearing a ski mask—
TENTATIVE AND FLEXIBLE
That’s what they taught us
in Search And Rescue. So—if the boot-tracks
you’ve been following for hours, upcanyon & down,
turn out to be made not by the missing hiker
but a native of the village, on whom the generous
hiker bestowed his new store-bought boots
in return for old worn moccasins—
it’s time to reconsider your search plan.
And so—when the poetry reading at the library
is suddenly cancelled by another PG&E safety power
outage, total blackout in town—pack your poems
and a flashlight, LED lantern, solar Lucy-light,
and a warm jacket. Everybody meet up at the library,
speak your poems around the picnic table
at edge of lawn, the only audience
all those listening blinking stars shivering a new
perspective, a cold immensity to the words.
DREAMCATCHER FOR TREK
It arrived the day we put you down.
A sign, a summons?
from an Indigenous school of the great prairies
so far from here. Feathers and air.
A friend suggests too much
wolf in you to bide our fences,
our ideas of living at peace
I believe you were beset by bad dreams.
When demons got their teeth in,
you were terror. We put you down.
As if in return
came this dreamcatcher
which hangs now above your empty
Might it catch your demons
in its web
as it sleeps beside us
and you on the unreachable