Taylor

Graham

GREATEST

HITS

1973-2001

"...Pudding House brings you hits from some of the hottest poets across the contemporary American literary landscape....The poets in this series write about their lives as poets....[and] have been asked to write about the lives of their poems as well....the Greatest Hits series provides their top 12 numbers from a broad range of venues and publishing histories."

 

click on selected poems to view

Aperture

Grandma Dawson's Girls

In Her Sleep

Unpacking Mother's Thing

House Built Into Trees

 

Aperture

Grandma Dawson's Girls

In Her Sleep

Unpacking Mother's Thing

House Built Into Trees

 

Aperture

Grandma Dawson's Girls

In Her Sleep

Unpacking Mother's Thing

House Built Into Trees

 

Aperture

Grandma Dawson's Girls

In Her Sleep

Unpacking Mother's Thing

House Built Into Trees

 

Aperture

Grandma Dawson's Girls

In Her Sleep

Unpacking Mother's Thing

House Built Into Trees

 

Aperture

Grandma Dawson's Girls

In Her Sleep

Unpacking Mother's Thing

House Built Into Trees

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APERTURE

 

 “Never enough light,” you said,

but you burned film like breath,

recording everything in intensities

of black, gray and white.

 

I saw you squint at your last

son’s birth, clicking the important

event to life, cursing his squirms

as he bawled at the light.

 

“Never enough light.”

But your cameras played the eye

in all its depths and distances,

all its distortions, its lights.

 

Ten shots for a true exposure.

Your lens tried to read in the dark

a drunk’s old eyes where he hunched

at his impenetrable glass.

 

“Never enough light,” you said,

and worried through your nights

by the stop-gap glare

of strobes and streetlights.

 

Afterwards we divided what you left,

a few dozen good prints and untold

negatives, images of black sky

and luminous earth.

 

GRANDMA DAWSON'S GIRLS

 

Of the hottest she chose

the hottest: chiles

that made her Texas Ranger

blanch, come up for air, “Oh yes!

That’s almost

hot enough.”

 

He’d kiss her on the mouth,

his lips burned through. Seeds

from that same chile

chosen above all others

down generations of a hot

west Texas garden:

 

that heart-shaped pepper hung

till it was red as Texas blood.

Just waved across the pot

it drew such piquancy to a stew

so you could hardly eat it,

so you fell in love

with hot.

           

Down generations

the Dawson girls

could hardly find young men

that weren’t too mild

to marry.

 

 

IN HER SLEEP

 

The old dog plays bass.

 

We used to call it chasing rabbits,

but she’s grown

way past that. Past puppyhood,

she learned a chase

would tangle her in thornbush

with the rabbit safe on the other side

in a field we scolded her

for running.

She grew reliable, then flimsy

in the hind end, companion

we could count on

not to mess the family room

or knock vases off the ledge.

A length of linoleum by the stove,

flat on her side, her horizontal

dog-dom.

 

But now the radio plays jazz.

            The old dog

goes chasing rhythms,

catching at tones in her sleep

that slither past us into tangles

of sound. She catches them clear

and clean. The old hind

legs carry her, the near-blind eyes

roll back white, she keeps

the bass alive. Flat asleep

on the floor, she’s running

like we never let her run,

into fields we never saw.

 

 

UNPACKING MOTHER'S THINGS

 

Her wedding picture’s with the recipes

for meatloaf. Months before Mother died

she saved this lock, but kept unmatching keys.

 

This purse holds rings and tokens. Like a tease,

a box within a box, tucked safe inside,

her wedding picture’s with the recipes.

 

She loved to cook. Now, here’s a bunch of peas,

some lentils and a sprig of parsley, dried.

She saved this lock, but kept unmatching keys

 

all sorted by some system based on threes,

perhaps, or color. Logic is defied:

her wedding picture’s with the recipes

 

and here’s a broken comb and two dead bees,

a postcard of a mule with boy astride.

She saved this lock, but kept unmatching keys

 

while autumn headed for its first hard freeze

and she put mind and memory aside.

Her wedding picture’s with the recipes

she saved and locked, and kept unmatching keys.

 

 

A HOUSE BUILT INTO TREES

 

Evenings we open windows to let the jazz out,

whistling like stars, while the moon on its low arc

draws the outline of this very night.

 

And we’ll be going, between the rough

red fringe of sunset and the dawn’s pale rind,

the bed floating from its loft, casting off ballast.

 

The oak boughs lift us lighter than the air we

       move through

dark as bats, singing our thin sonar to come,

asleep, back home