Taylor Graham is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler in the Sierra
Nevada, and also helps her husband (a retired forester/wildlife biologist)
with his field projects. A native Californian, she spent a year studying in
Germany on a Fulbright. Her husband's work took them to Alaska in the pre-
pipeline days; to Washington DC, and then back to California in 1981. Their
search-and-rescue work has taken them throughout California and to adjoining
states, and as far as Mexico City after the 1985 earthquake. They live at the
end of a little dirt road with their three trained German Shepherds and one
untrainable cat. Taylor's poems have appeared in America, International
Poetry Review
, Iowa Review, The New York Quarterly, Poetry International,
and elsewhere, and she's included in the new anthology, California Poetry:
From the Gold Rush to the Present
. Her latest chapbook, Living with Myth, is
forthcoming from Rattlesnake Press.


Find the loveliest hilltop
you can imagine. Buy it.

When the dozer sets its blade
to grade your entrance, say
"make it wider."
When the architect begins to dream
a floor-plan, tell him "higher."
Perhaps half-timbered Tudor
with a spiral stair.

White vinyl fencing never
needs new paint.
A wrought-iron gate
that clamps shut by solar power
doesn't mean you hate
your neighbor.

And when you close yourself
inside your finished walls
and climb the numbered spirals
flight by flight,
and look out over all
you've done,

try to remember
how the great oaks used to tremble
to a breeze.

What Psychic Energy Does A Poem Release

They were dancing in the middle
of the eastbound lane.
Twenty-seven miles from the nearest honky-tonk,
31 miles from town,
they were doing a Texas two-step,
skirts a-swirl and Stetsons tipping;
their old sedan stopped on the shoulder,
driver's door wide open
to let the achy-breaky out.

I was westbound for home as fast
as a mountain road allows.
I'd had my solitude, I'd filled it up
with poems about the loneliness
of juke-box nights
and the companionship of pines.

And there they were, two couples
linked in the ancient paired-step,
with nobody watching
but cedar whispering to weepy Douglas fir
beyond the asphalt shoulder;

they were dancing the lonely
out of my lines, dancing their double twosome
into my solitary poems
headed home.

The Bread Machine

All things mechanical, everything
with moving parts at last
breaks down. Arthritis, worn gears,
metal fatigue. And then
we throw it away.

And yet, how many nights
have I gone to sleep to the rhythmic
hum, the paddled kneading
that ought to be my own hands
coaxing loaves from wheat milled
to powder-dust? My fingers let go
in the dark, dreaming yeast
of a clotted dough, sticky and then
elastic, as it's palmed and pounded
to a hand's human warmth.
In dream I set this pale foetus
on a sunny sill until it swells
to match the appetite. How
could a love-less machine work
such a birth?

Non-durable goods wear out
so much quicker than flesh. And yet,
how many foggy mornings
has the golden yeasty smell
wafted into my sleep saying "rise"?
How many perfect loaves
in the life of a machine?
How many hungry wakings
in ours?


Under the kitchen lamp she sits
transcribing from an earlier free-hand
to a cribbed script now, slow
and careful on clean lined paper.
The original shows red-stained margins
from tomato paste, and egg-white
dried and cracked to refract a lamp's
illumination; specks of green -
oregano, perhaps, or thyme;
and olive oil spattered over the page
so paper glows translucent.

Her daughter wants this recipe,
at last. So she copies ingredients
and quantities, each in proportion
to transform food-stuffs to a meal.

But how to share the unmeasured
secret - her own free hand at spooning,
generous but thrifty - so her child
might pass this recipe to daughters,
cousins, friends; so strangers
might taste, and ask to pass
the blessing on?

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