from the back cover:
In Harmonics, Taylor Graham maps the precarious. She reminds us: "A plate shifts under ocean, not intending much..." but "a wall falls down." Roads vanish in winter storms, friends disappear. Someone takes "a mis-step/on the South Fork Trail/ and it's forever." We're warned by a voice that knows from experience: "Don't step on broken branches,/you never know whose bones."
The poems' response to such a world is dire attentiveness---an essential listening so acute it registers when a spider's web "resonates like highrise steel/inside its concrete." Though pervaded with a sense of elegy, the poems also celebrate the redemptive moment: A cloud of butterflies "balanced on the tips of nameless, pale pink flowers." They usher us into the minds of Fox, Bear and Dog, from whom we learn: "A dog writes his own history/without monuments."
These are deceptively humble poems. Graham speaks to us casually, at times with quiet good humor; like a good neighbor chatting across the back fence. But Graham's crafting is deft, her sense of the line edgy, architectural and sure. These poems sing with the music of the inevitable.
A spider's web resonates like highrise steel
inside its concrete. The web snaps as one man
steps under interlacing twigs of forest, not lost
but simply walking. A plate shifts under ocean
not intending much of anything, maybe
only stretching, and a wall falls down. Listen.
An old brown Navajo sings heaven and clay
as she weaves these colors into dust.
Creation's song is a trapped insect, imploding
stars or earthquake. We weave ourselves
into its pattern, right or wrong.
I was sleeping when they came.
I slept in the savor of pot roast,
the woolish warmth of wood‑stove,
and the long night=s moon measuring
But in the morning
I found their prints
stitching the old orchard,
circling each tree. They lifted
bear‑bulk for the hanging apples,
the ones too poor to pick.
And so I reached, too,
and plucked just one,
and bit it to its seeds.
The flesh was sweet
but scant. It tasted
All your married friends love cheatin' -
songs. Unattached, you lean
to trespass. You've got this rough
brown dog who travels shotgun,
both county road and interstate, muzzle
wide out the right-side window, no matter
weather. Stop here! he says
in Dog, then ranges out through some-
body's unattended sag-fence field
gone crazy to anise, mustard blossoming
yellow among the faded Miller cans
and rabbit droppings. A good dog
leaves his own.
Once your tail-lights disappear
around the next curve west,
the only evidence will be this lush
forge of wild radish at a certain spot
he marked, thrusting flowers
delicately blue-white as moth
wings, a flight that's never
lighted on a question
Under hot sky and the livestock trucks
headed for mountain pasture;
under the speeding convertibles
bound for Valley cities,
under the bridge
where swallows daub their nests
with creek‑mud and zap mosquitos
above thin water
on a dry‑grass slope
across from the tanglefoot‑garden
where a forgotten hand
sowed mock‑orange and yellow
monkey‑flower, and blue‑
birds weave a nest of honey‑
here under a plain June sun
in sable fur with ruddy
prick ears, unstartled eyes
staring at me staring back
unafraid as Eden
taking my human picture
Eight summers since you rode that load of timber
down a July so hot, the asphalt burned
like failed brakes. At your neck, the weight
of forest that you loved to measure out
by footsteps, losing track of hours
when you weren't so needy after pay
that runs out at the end of logging season.
It was trees you loved, and meadow
that springs back underfoot
hardly leaving a track.
You'd puzzle out a cougar pad
or follow cloven hooves,
just to see an August thicket
from a buck's eye.
You liked to sniff the deadfall scent
that stays on south‑face slopes
when everybody else is counting days
till the flat‑broke end of season.
Of course they milled your logs---
the ones they could salvage---
measured out by board‑feet.
Your truck's a total.
The part of you they saved
lies in a well‑milled box.
That part can wait.
This morning I was hiking
above the last bad curve.
I almost thought I saw