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."
" '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."
|Click for selected poems:
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.
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.
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
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
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.
back to top