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Harmonics by Taylor Graham

Harmonics

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.

~Susan Kelly-DeWitt

 

BEAR-HUNGER

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
my dreams.

      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
like hunger.

 

BETWEEN THE NOTES

                             Yosemite Valley

Granite walls sing their own music, if you could hear it.
Perhaps it’s written on the staff of contour lines
on the topographic map you purchased,
then stood amazed before flat paper representing
standing rock, as if an eternal eroding landscape
could be captured in notation.

This music brushes the listener aside,
small eavesdropper. It sits silent in stone.

And now, vacation gone, you drive home in the gusts
and murmur of friends caught between times.
You wonder if Beethoven said something about this
in his deafness. But the radio’s tuned to whatever
signal’s strong enough. Static and rock.

The freeway overpasses hang like fragile arches
that could tumble or hold. Blackbirds on parallel sweeps
of wires strike unheard notes, then fly, change key
and tempo beyond the windshield, lift and settle
variations, and are gone.

A person could pack up his life and carry it on his back,
and hear nothing but his own footsteps, the sift of dust
and wind, water cutting bedrock.

You long for that kind of silence
while the engine grumbles over pavement
toward months of city noise.
You keep the map folded like a secret
in your lap, as if you could learn to read
its music, sing to yourself
its indecipherable stone song.

 

OCTOBER, SPIRITS

We cup our hands around the possibility
of fire. Frost has nipped our ankles, touched a hunger
at the dug-up root. Headless roses can’t explain

how they ever could have been an easy beauty.
Dried herbs beg to be incense, or a witch’s brew,
pulverized and potent, and finally let fly

on wind and wishes. The shriek you heard
last night was nothing but a shrew being changed
in the horned-owl’s grasp; and in the field,

one misshapen pumpkin put aside
waits for everything it might become; waits
for someone to carve its own true face.

 

 

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