Next Exit

On the Poetry of Taylor Graham:

"Taylor Graham's evocation of the natural world is considerably more than heartfelt, and her understanding of human frailty in its midst is unique among contemporary North American poets."

~Christopher Presfield

" 'Like an eye/behind the lashes of wild trees,' Taylor Graham's perspective is haunting, exquisite, breathtaking. Squinty 'backlit' poems in search of the lost, the dead and dying, the mind and body deconstructing itself. She never names the places and you've never known them described this way, but you know them like your last life, your remains still decaying right there in the bushes 'like something to covet.' The angels working, weeping, laughing."

~Sharon Doubiago   

Click for selected poems:

Seeing Fox

Truck Stop

Backlit

Before He Lays Himself to Sleep

Hospital Angels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEEING FOX

 

Among wood and dry stone, branches

like stiff snakes' tongues, a web

of spider, forest walls in waves,

the focus is one live eye. Fox.

An instant, gone. Small birds

come back, complaining to the safe

shadows, the unstenched water.

No more joy of ruddy fur under a fall

of sun, no sizzle-samba

of whiskers, changing woodland

quiet into a dangerous listening.

In spite of rumor, Fox is gone

to the lethal edge of asphalt,

hugging berms and cover like an eye

behind the lashes of wild trees.

 

 

Seeing Fox

Truck Stop

Backlit

Before He Lays Himself to Sleep

Hospital Angels

 

 

 

 

TRUCK STOP

 

This morning 400 miles from home

you had breakfast with half the waitresses

he's loved, their hashbrown hair,

their sunny side up. The coffee reeked

of tap water, but their smiles

tipped up through fog. They'll do a dozen

miles on shift, 300 laps of counter.

You paid your check and wondered

where to go from here, and how

on earth and whom to love.

 

Seeing Fox

Truck Stop

Backlit

Before He Lays Himself to Sleep

Hospital Angels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BACKLIT

 

A bed, the corner of a desk.

Each finds its form

in first light, the great heads

of cloud letting down

white gold silver, the sky

already hot with blue.

The dead join in,

rising from the bedclothes,

from a box in the bottom

of the desk. They've

always been here, and show

themselves in time,

sifting down like dust.

The hot blue flame

of sky burns their memory

but not away. They stay.

They love our morning.

It's only the living

who shut off the alarm,

hide under blankets, eyes

pinched tight against

the day. We're late

and later. The light already

half gone.

 

Seeing Fox

Truck Stop

Backlit

Before He Lays Himself to Sleep

Hospital Angels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEFORE HE LAYS HIMSELF TO SLEEP

 

he strips off shoes and socks and trousers,

shirt and undershorts and skin

and tosses them in the wash;

removes teeth and gums, and drops

them in solution. Oh, they'll come out

spotless in the morning. He peels off

his scalp and smooths it over its form,

combing out the dark hairs singly.

Then head to toe he unhooks ligaments

and tendons, unlaces muscles,

lays each in turn in its place;

unwinds the organs and hangs them

out to dry. The lungs, deflated,

he drapes at large; extracts windpipe

with its gathered daily tunes;

the tongue curled speechless

in a stainless box; the heart and brain

in parchment. Finally he unclasps

the numbered bones, polishing

metacarpals till they shine.

He lets out wishes, lies and memories

to hunt in the dark of the moon.

And then he lays himself to sleep

between clean sheets,

and dreams empty and unadorned

through this night that's never

been before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing Fox

Truck Stop

Backlit

Before He Lays Himself to Sleep

Hospital Angels

 

HOSPITAL ANGELS

 

The angel of charred wings waits

at the Emergency door. Inside,

the angel of burned bridges

and bad choices holds a sheaf

of xrays, doctors' charts.

Angels of scalpel and dialysis

pass in the hall, the green angel

of chemo, and one with caduceus

snakes for hair, swearing comfort

in a nurse's hands.

You never meant to come here:

to angels of the tilting bed

and wildly spinning dials,

of thready pulse and failing

lungs, the angel of code blue.

No, this is a mistake.

You were looking for an angel

to sing raptures against death;

sing hope or God's good grace and

healing, while the nurses

in stained uniforms come and go.

But it's the angel of darkening

windows who stands here

at your side. He looks out

at simple sky and then

holds out his hand.

 

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