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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

Young Black


waving his arms loosening muscles maybe

like violining to soothe stray cats—

of course

she called

911 because.

Did police

ask what?

Massage therapist

walking home from

convenience store

wearing a ski mask—



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.


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

with dogs.

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

other side.


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