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Living with Myth by Taylor Graham

Living With Myth

The serpent of myth…winds through the pages of Graham's book. In the opening poem, "Slow Dancing," the poet leans against an oak tree, "actually two oaks that have wound/ their trunks together..." She remembers her mother's admonition against "Slow Dancing" and wonders if "...she'd once heard music/sweet as Orpheus when she was young." Orpheus, of course, hopelessly pursues Eurydice into the underworld after she is mortally struck by a serpent….

Graham’s music is intricately connected to the human voice….

In "Calligraphy of Snake," Graham's serpent becomes "too thin to cast such shadow:/the dark behind the eye,/the quiver/when light retracts." Graham never looks away from this "dark behind the eye." In "Living with Wild," she writes, "Toward noon, a whipsnake, black-and-yellow ribbon in a half-tied bow/untying slick as foxtails," mortality itself somehow unwinding. Face to face with the wild, Graham unflinchingly recommends, "Lock nothing, open every door/and window, leave yourself/free dreaming," Graham as Orpheus-— gamely, singing to the melic serpent of the dark.

I highly recommend this chapbook.

~  Carol Frith – from a review in Poetry Now. 



I stand with my back against an oak —
actually two oaks that have wound
their trunks together as if they’d been
slow-dancing, her head on his shoulder,
her golden leaves disheveled in light.

That’s what comes of slow-dancing,
my mother might have said, as if she
knew. As if she’d once heard music
sweet as Orpheus when she was young.
As if she’d ever been as young as these

two oaks that grew into one tree rooted
like any other oak in the woods, but
their good grain so curved and spiraled,
they’re useless for lumber, the way
they just stand here, dancing.



The tooth fairy in her necklace
of teeth, and tooth earrings
and a gown as shimmery as spit,
takes them from underneath
your pillow, they say,
and gives them to newborns.
And only when the children shedding teeth
outnumber the infants needing
might she keep one for her own,
hung by a ribbon as pink as gums
at her breast, the so-called
milk-tooth. And when the toothless babes
outnumber children growing
to new teeth, then she
visits the pillows of dogs and cats,
hoofed creatures of all kinds.
And these are the infants whose smile
you cannot endure.



The day begins with a speckled fawn
in the swale;
      and then, five swallows —
one of them fledged from your hand.

Toward noon, a whipsnake,
black-&-yellow ribbon in a half-tied bow
      untying slick as foxtails.

At evening through an open window,
myotis maps this undiscovered
continent – our house – sailing
the aether and the nether regions.

Lock nothing, open every door
and window, leave yourself
      free dreaming.



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