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An Hour in the Cougar's Grace by Taylor Graham

An Hour in the Cougar's Grace

From the back cover:

Taylor Graham has been published in America, The Chatahoochee Review, The Iowa Review, New York Quarterly, Poetry International, Yankee, and elsewhere. Her collection, Casualties: search-and-rescue poems (Coal City, 1995) was profiled in the 1998 Poet's Market. Her most recent collection, Next Exit, was released by Cedar Hill Publications in 1999. Taylor and her husband are volunteer search-and-rescue dog handlers in the Sierra Nevada.

Front cover art by Bryan Dechter, our nephew. More at www.dancingeyes.com



He sings in the voices of people
I've lost. Mother, father, one
old lover. Friends, some gone
without my noticing. He changes
dialect. He improvises,
he brings them back.
                But his song
is of people disappearing, a mock-
masked carnival, a chorus of dead
voices masquerading in a mocker

This same familiar room fades
into twilight. Outside
a bird reminds me of forgotten
      until he takes my own
voice too, and scats it so I
wouldn't recognize, and goes on
improvising song on song on song.



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 radar to come,
asleep, back home.



     Shriner Lake, Mokelumne Wilderness

Lying uncomfortable
in my bones, I heard you
drop to sleep, mounded dense as earth
in your bag.

Three miles from trail-
head, two in the morning.
No wind

but something's whispering
soft as a child
breathing. Moonlight
flits an edge of lace,
undergarment for an angel.

Over the aisle of trees
it watches me through lodgepole,
measuring an arc against my hours.
There are others, motionless
in fir. One keeps the prints
of deer, and one has flushed out
nighthawks. No wind. But
an angel's settling dust
in the tracks we made
to get here.

Each one invisible
except for moonlight.
Have they crossed your dreams?

I shiver under the hand
of the one without a name.
And then the angel of sudden joy
shakes me as I'm waking
in its way.



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