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What the Wind Says Poetry by Taylor Graham


What the Wind Says dog poems

Taylor Graham


Acknowledgments These poems and essays—some in earlier versions and often with other titles—first appeared or are forthcoming in the following publications: Amelia: In Her Sleep Ancient Heart: Meditation with Dog Art/Life: Learning the Rules Ascent Aspirations: Across the Gulf; Earthquake on the Screen; Flash-Flood; Getting through the Night Barbaric Yawp: Sundown Bellowing Ark: Partners Bolts of Silk: Creek; Elegy for Piper Cairn: Firebird Carquinez Poetry Review: Letting You Go Caveat Lector: Airborne Circa: Empty Sidewalks; Interview with the Handler Connecticut River Review: Old Dog Westbound Cream City Review: A Dream of Dogs, Coming Home Eclectica: After School; Pearly-Everlasting Embers: Hiking Old Dog to the Alpine Lake Enigma: Downtown with Dog Eskimo Pie: Relic Fog & Woodsmoke: In Their Language Free Lunch: Looking for Mariah Free Verse Poetry Journal: Portrait of Old Dog Grasslimb: Dog Stop Hidden Oak: Cody’s Gifts The MacGuffin: Thanksgiving Morning Manzanita: Evening News; Light off Clear Water The Meadow: Photosynthesis Medusa’s Kitchen: Blackberry Blues; Dance of Rock and River; Dog Letters; Explosive; Fog; Forgetfulness; Halloween Disguise; Headstrong; Hide and Seek; Peace-Keeping; The Photo I Didn’t Get; A Pup’s First Summer; Quiet Space;

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Revising the Wild Puppy; Screen Door; Shared Breathing; This New Puppy; This Used to Be a City; Trash Talk; Travels with Cowboy; The Wind’s Tale Mockingbird: By Mono Craters Mudlark: The Dog, the Search, and the Poem Outerbridge: For Old Dog, a Late-Summer Hike One Dog Press: Passing through Tonopah Parting Gifts: Picking Ticks Penumbra: Very Early on Earth Day Pleiades Magazine: Whelping Poet News: This Morning According to Dog Poetry Magazine online: Across the Country in Short Hops; Reclaiming Taco Poetry Super Highway: Five-Star Dogs; In Uniform, Poets Online: From the Training Log; In Earth-Years; Lesson Poets’ Forum Magazine: The Dog Drawer; Traverse Creek; Wind Ghazal Pyrokinection: Fiberglass Life Forms; Geology of Teeth; Gravitational; Haunted; How Things Work; Lost Years; Petting the Puppy in Storm; Poem for the World Unending; Rescue Reed Magazine: Unposted Rio Grande Press: Roxy’s Pups; Teething The Road Not Taken: Bones; Learning Trust Schuylkill Valley Journal: Flying Home Song of the San Joaquin: Behind the New Development; Cowboy & Boomer; Odyssey; Scent of Grief; Viewpoint Starry Night: Accidental Puppy; Hauntings Tattoo Highway: Hospital Day Three Tiger’s Eye: Fences vs. Cowboy; Under a Snow Moon Tulane Review: Earthquake, Piper Writer’s Digest: Splash of Silence Ya’Sou!: Finding the Old Dog

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Š2013 Taylor Graham All rights reserved. No part of this book can be reproduced without the express written permission of the author, except in the case of written reviews. ISBN 978-1-929878-49-9 First edition

PO Box 5301 San Pedro, CA 90733 www.lummoxpress.com Printed in the United States of America

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For my husband, Hatch, who’s had dogs all his life; and for all the dogs who’ve shared our lives and taught us so much This New Puppy (Rannaigheacht Ghairid, an Irish form) One dog lost after another. Time-crossed leash-bond of so many years disappears. And now we’ve tossed a dead bone for the new pup to chew; stone flung into the pond – a chase to erase the hours that hone their bright blade. In earth, so many are laid to rest. This new puppy runs under suns, then sleeps in shade.

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Contents/What the Wind Says Cast of Characters....................................................... xii My Dog Shows Me........................................................ 2 In the Dark ................................................................ 4 I. The Dog Drawer........................................................ 6 Passing through Tonopah.......................................... 7 Accidental Puppy...................................................... 8 From the Training Log............................................ 10 The Dog on the Rock............................................... 11 Very Early on Earth Day......................................... 12 Gravitational........................................................... 13 Forgetfulness........................................................... 14 Geology of Teeth..................................................... 15 By Mono Craters..................................................... 16 Splash of Silence...................................................... 17 Getting through the Night....................................... 18 Relic........................................................................ 20 Unposted................................................................. 21 Bones....................................................................... 23 Thanksgiving Morning............................................ 24 Petting the Puppy in Storm...................................... 25 Screen Door............................................................. 26 Dog Tweets.............................................................. 28 What They Didn’t Mention at the Briefing,............. 30 Learning the Rules................................................... 31 Lesson..................................................................... 33 Light off Clear Water.............................................. 34 Downtown with Dog............................................... 35 Cody’s Gifts............................................................. 36

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Earthquake, Piper.................................................... 37 Viewpoint................................................................ 38 The Dog, the Search, and the Poem............................. 39 II. The Photo I Didn’t Get............................................ 44 Pearly-Everlasting.................................................... 45 Flash-Flood............................................................. 46 Roxy’s Pups............................................................. 47 Teething................................................................... 48 Elegy for Piper......................................................... 49 Picking Ticks........................................................... 50 Hauntings................................................................ 51 Dog Stop................................................................. 52 Odyssey................................................................... 54 Trash Talk................................................................ 55 The Wind’s Tale....................................................... 57 Photosynthesis......................................................... 58 Time Warp .............................................................. 59 Five-Star Dogs......................................................... 60 Flying Home............................................................ 61 Creek....................................................................... 63 Airborne.................................................................. 64 Old Dog Westbound................................................ 65 Sundown.................................................................. 67 This Used to Be a City............................................. 68 Revising the Wild Puppy.......................................... 69 Interview with the Handler...................................... 70 Looking for Mariah................................................. 71 Scent of Grief.......................................................... 72 A Dream of Dogs, Coming Home........................... 73 In Her Sleep............................................................. 74

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III. Haunted................................................................... 76 Peace-Keeping......................................................... 77 Rescue..................................................................... 78 Whelping................................................................. 79 A Pup’s First Summer.............................................. 81 Quiet Space.............................................................. 82 Traverse Creek......................................................... 83 Wind Ghazal........................................................... 84 In Earth-Years......................................................... 85 Hero Dogs............................................................... 86 Firebird.................................................................... 87 For Old Dog, a Late-Summer Hike.......................... 88 Reclaiming Taco...................................................... 89 Explosive................................................................. 90 Fences vs. Cowboy................................................... 91 Letters from the Dead.............................................. 94 Under a Snow Moon............................................... 95 Empty Sidewalks..................................................... 96 How Things Work................................................... 97 Fog.......................................................................... 98 Night Visitors.......................................................... 99 Fiberglass Life Forms.............................................100 Doorsill..................................................................101 Evening News.........................................................102 This Morning According to Dog............................103 Hospital Day Three................................................104 Behind the New Development................................105

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IV. After School...........................................................108 Across the Country in Short Hops..........................109 Finding the Old Dog...............................................110 How to Pick a Puppy..............................................111 Cowboy & Boomer.................................................113 Meditation with Dog..............................................115 Hiking Old Dog to the Alpine Lake........................116 Hide and Seek.........................................................118 Lost Years...............................................................120 Portrait of Old Dog................................................121 Blackberry Blues.....................................................122 Dog Space and Time...............................................123 Across the Gulf......................................................124 Night-Rain Samisen...............................................125 Halloween Disguise................................................126 In Uniform,............................................................127 Poem for the World Unending................................128 Dance of Rock and River.......................................129 Partners..................................................................130 Let Loose................................................................131 Learning Trust ......................................................132 Travels with Cowboy...............................................133 Earthquake on the Screen.......................................134 Headstrong.............................................................135 Shared Breathing....................................................137 In Their Language..................................................138 Letting You Go.......................................................139

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Cast of Characters Kerry vom Kuskokwim (1972-74) -- Kerry My first dog, in training for obedience and tracking. Smart, brave, and hard-headed. Mother of Ali and Major. She died much too young. Kuskokwim’s Alert CD (1974-83) – Ali Son of Kerry; too smart for anyone’s good. We lost count of how many obedience trials he flunked, and the judges would say “I really enjoyed watching your dog work!” An ace tracking dog when he felt like it. Too competitive for the SAR team. Father of Pepper. Kuskokwim’s Alpha Ursa Major CD (1974-82) – Major Son of Kerry; steady and solid. Hatch’s first search dog in Alaska and Virginia; trained for wilderness search and avalanche, he helped us discover that dogs could locate drowned victims underwater. Walmar’s Caprice v Kuskokwim CD (1973-81) – Prissy A housepet before we bought her at 13 months. I thought her an unlikely SAR prospect, but she became my fanatic searcher in Virginia. Mother of Pepper. Kuskokwim Firebird CD (1978-88) – Sardy My search partner on hundreds of missions in Virginia, California, Arizona, Mexico. Demo-dog for Hug-A-Tree and other programs. She would gladly work for anyone who could say “go find!” Mother of Roxy.

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Kuskokwim Jalapeña TD (1980-93) – Pepper Daughter of Ali and Prissy. Smart, hard-headed enough to take charge when her handler (Hatch) thought he knew best. A pro at “wilderness” (area) search, trailing, avalanche, water, disaster, cadaver before they became specialties– an all-around search dog in California, Mexico, and beyond. Mother of Pattycake. Kuskokwim Odyssey (1983-95) – Roxy Daughter of Sardy. I didn’t mean to keep her, but found I was shutting her away when people came to look at the puppies. Adventurer; search partner who could read my mind. Pure energy in a dog-skin; so light-footed, she could walk a teeter-totter and not make it tip. Pattycake (1986-96) Daughter of Pepper and a break-in artist (Tervuren?); an International Shepherd. Trained in area search, but she ranged the whole countryside; re-trained for trailing, she resented being attached to Hatch by a long-line, but became a whiz at it. Kuskokwim Taco von Flohr (1990-2002) – Taco Search partner for me and, later, Hatch; on call-out for both area search and trailing. Peace-maker and guardian of the family, he loved order. Father of Piper.

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Kuskokwim Cody v Steinhof CD (1996-2008) – Cody My search dog, trained simultaneously in area and trailing; subject of “Cody’s Log” on an internet SAR dog list, detailing her daily training, socialization, and everything else that led up to becoming mission-ready at just over a year. Mother of Piper. Kuskokwim Peter Piper Pepper CD (1998-2011) – Piper Daughter of Taco and Cody. Hatch’s search partner; escape artist – she could extricate herself from truck, shipping crate, harness – anything to join Hatch, especially if he was out searching without her. Kuskokwim Ragtime Cowboy Joe (2003- ) – Cowboy Boogie Grandson of Taco and Cody, nephew of Piper. Trained for trailing even though his handlers retired from searching. He continues to run trails at least weekly; German Shepherds don’t accept retirement. Kuskokwim Loki von Goeman (2011- ) – Loki Four months old when she joined our family – older than we like to start our puppies; we had to play catch-up with obedience, socialization, and other lifeskills. But she’s a natural tracker, and keeps me running on our weekly trails.

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What the Wind Says


Taylor Graham

My Dog Shows Me We’re in a wonderland of green, my dog and I – oaks just leafing out, miner’s-lettuce like elf umbrellas. My dog pushes through annual grasses already chest-high to a German Shepherd. But it’s her head I’m watching – that lift of muzzle, how she seems to inhale sky as she’s drawn forward by an invisible thread: scent. Human scent. She’s got that look in her eye. But now she’s leading me in circles in this green hollow under the ridge. It’s ten in the morning and it’s going to get hot. We’ve been searching since five a.m. for a lost boy, along dirt roads where I haven’t seen a footprint, not even a scuff; my dog trotting ahead as if we’re out for a walk; ranging from side to side checking this and that with casual interest – isn’t that what dogs do? Nothing special. Until we reached this hollow. Here, she sparkles. As if a light went on in a dark, you’d say deserted, room, and I see that someone might actually live here. My dog, with her incredibly sophisticated nose, puts a new perspective on everything.

—2—


What the Wind Says

Is it the lost boy she smells, but can’t find? Maybe he just passed through. Maybe his scent drafted downslope during the night and collected in this hollow. My job, to help her follow the scent to its source. We’re a team. On this search, one team among many. Over the years my dogs have shown me so many things: footprint of a missing woman; my lost car keys; sunrise over rimrock; the spot in river where a drowned man was wedged under rocks; snake’s-eye view of manzanita thicket; crevice in a collapsed building where crews might dig to find a trapped woman, alive; two boys playing hooky; sudden screamer-vistas not meant for tourists. One of my favorites: the sight of my dog ranging cross-slope at a flying trot, head high, homing in on human scent – with that look of “alive” in her eye. She loves to find survivors. She comes back to me, fast! with that look; pirouettes, and leads me to her find – looking back over her shoulder to make sure I’m coming. If it’s the other kind, she comes back, tail wagging low; turns, and leads me as if on tiptoe to what neither of us wants to find. And if there’s no find? We may search two or three shifts in a day, cover hundreds of acres of steep, brushy country, till I don’t think I can take another step. My dog never fades. But when we get back to base camp, she’ll lie down in the shade, and sleep up for the next assignment. Back to our missing boy. We’re heading up the ridge now, hoping to intercept more scent, or find a footprint, or hear a yell in answer to my calls. I listen past the wind. My dog works ahead of me, sifting scents and filing them in her brain; taking the wind full in her face.

—3—


Taylor Graham

In the Dark I catch a glimpse, then lose it – green wand floating dog-level through the black woods: Cyalume light-stick attached to her collar. November. No sound. Leaf-fall absorbs my boot-step, leaves no print. Smell of forest in late autumn decay. What scents does my dog snatch from the air? Stop. Call the lost boy’s name again. Listen past midnight. Flashlight; map; compass bearing. My dog breaking through the dark.

—4—


I.


Taylor Graham

The Dog Drawer Leashes of webbing and leather; long-lines braided or woven, frayed by dogs pulling me over rocks, curbs, broken branches in the woods. Collars – all sizes, puppy to old-dog. Purple for Piper; Cody’s was green, but it’s with her in the grave, as token we’re together. Knobby orange bumper for tugging; and dumbbells for teaching retrieve. Whistles and clickers (a praise-voice is better). Flat combs and curry combs, brushes imbued with the scent of four decades of dogs. Weather-proof pad for field-notes I won’t read again, they’re all in my mind – search-missions now history, like the old dogs long gone who still find me in dream, running joyous without bother of collar or leash; dogs who will never stay put in a drawer.

—6—


What the Wind Says

Passing through Tonopah for Taco Six a.m. outside the OK Corral Motel: clouds the color of slab concrete, junked cars beyond a dead-end spur. A deputy’s on duty, and my dog, who with a poet’s nose proceeds from chainlink fence to power pole, marking his praise of such an unswept morning just waiting for wind to deliver the latest news. He offers his pent-up streams of metaphor against a milepost, a tumbleweed, the sparsely graveled ground. He lifts his muzzle, inhales odors from who knows where: a café dumpster’s scrambled scents, or kids bundled up for school; flights of fancy for a dog who, like Nevada’s unleashed wind this morning, happens to be just passing through.

—7—


Taylor Graham

Accidental Puppy for Loki Born blind into the puppy-dark. First to escape the whelping-box.  Her littermates moved on to new homes;  she was passed over, learning life by teeth and bark; then sold, and soon returned. Too much,  too smart, too hard. How did we chance to find her, or she us? Sheer accident.  This morning she pulls me at the end  of a leash, down steps of an unfamiliar city,  into April springlight. Up 13th Street, startling at her own reflection in glass; showing me  the scent of white begonias;  adventuring sidewalk, as strangers debark  from sighing buses. Bark. Greeting?  Accident creating our new world.

—8—


What the Wind Says

Cody

—9—


Taylor Graham

From the Training Log Sat Oct 20, 9:40 a.m. Cedar School I’ve got puppy Loki in harness. Here’s the red ball-cap that smells like Kyle (10 years old). Loki sniffs the cap and takes off down the walk. Deserted corridor – but it’s full of scent left over from Friday’s girls and boys, scent clinging to grass and pavement cracks. Loki pulls me down stone steps, past remnants of the 6th-grade garden – dry hollyhocks, dead vines. Along the nature trail where, winters past, Cowboy and I left tracks in snow. Up to basketball courts; morning’s wind shoots hoops with fallen oak leaves. It’s been decades since I went to school. Now I’m puffing to keep up with Loki, my pup in full spring tide. She finds a ramp down to the entrance drive, and there sits Kyle, waiting to be found. 9:48. A biscuit for Loki, with lots of pats and praise. * Don’t cut this last stanza from the training-log: At 9:25 this morning I worked old Cowboy first, dog-partner with nine good years of seasons running trails. Old trooper spry with the joy of everything the wind brings him, things I miss as we pass by.

—10—


What the Wind Says

The Dog on the Rock        for Kerry, 1973 Through thickets of alder heavy with the scent of bear, she broke out into spruce bog free as a dream bursting, the season rushing toward solstice, her single summer on the creek. A northern sun keeps strict syntax. No matter the open-mouthed mosses, life seeps back into permafrost. Winter is always more believable; in alpenglow, salmonberries almost indistinguishable from snow. Even at that latitude, midsummer shadows overcame the rock she swam to, where she sat mid-current like ancient statuary – motionless but every synapse awake. The perfect moment that never lasts. An instant after my shutter-click, she swam back toward us, to shore. Sun slipped behind Denali as the Deshka darkened. Her eyes for that time-flash bright.

—11—


Taylor Graham

Very Early on Earth Day My dog calls me out of sleep. Overnight the wind has rearranged everything. The sun’s first rays just now exploding gold shrapnel over the east ridge. And everything is moving. Sun-shatter through leaves, and wind plucking overnight spider-webs till they hum gold filament against the dark trunks of oaks, everything flowing, glowing gold-green, a morning I couldn’t describe. And so my dog stands simply wagging. Wasn’t he good to bring me here?

—12—


What the Wind Says

Gravitational It pulls her out the doorway, down the hill. Something new to a dog’s nose. This old world looks just the same to me, dried out by drought at summer’s end. Nothing green or freshly minted – but everything’s new to a dog’s nose. Take this stone, whitewashed by last winter’s floods – just a chunk of creek-bottom rock – ecstatically new to a dog’s nose with a tough scrim of dried-on fluff like old meringue. My dog scrubs it with her breath; inhales its common wonder, new to a dog’s nose, a come-hither scent that’s got her creeping on her elbows for a closer sniff. Secrets I’ll never know; new to a dog’s nose.

—13—


Taylor Graham

Forgetfulness on a line by Billy Collins As if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor drifted away in corked bottles, names detached from faces, as tides undercut the sand-cliffs; dogs chasing after driftwood at the beach. You call our Cowboy by the name of his grandsire, Taco. In my mind Cody merges with Firebird, gentle blond ladies shawled in black; so similar their glance; by pedigree unrelated. Fifteen dogs over the space of forty years. All of a breed, yet each as individual as smiles in a high school yearbook. Decades later, I can feel the silk of Prissy’s ears, and Patty’s feathers. Just now, I retrieve a poem Loki shredded; and by mistake I call her Odyssey, forever sailing wreckage through my heart; gone seven years and longer, returning but changed, with a different name and face. Such a bargain Life offers us. This image behind my eyes.

—14—


What the Wind Says

Geology of Teeth Jagged enamel with a drop of blood at the root – on the bedspread this morning pre-molar, mini-Sierra: The Minarets, The Needle – sharp rock of puppy-tooth. Geography of peaks and passes. Take her out on leash, she pulls me toward horizon, aspiring to know Earth’s whole landscape by scent, by taste, by tooth, a world entire to a dog’s mouth. Teeth that itch to grab and hold – tug-toy, my hand. Teeth that ache for newspaper, my left boot, this very moment, Life. She leaves scant evidence on the bed: sawtooth puppy fragment. Fossil of her time already past.

—15—


Taylor Graham

By Mono Craters for Ali The sky is oyster, color of the desiccated sea. The remnant ocean is a mile, a world away. Silence. The sun made no sound in its slippage. A lava cone between us and sunset grows monumental as its details die. Articulation is a daylight word. No sound. The old dog eases his hips down on my bedroll. Motion is by instants, a movie clicking out its frames. The interstices catch. And somehow the sky has slipped away. Dark. One star, a breeze. The old dog snoring.

—16—


What the Wind Says

Splash of Silence He left his room in disarray – toy cars scattered, coloring books on the floor with broken crayons. He didn’t make his bed this morning. Let your dog shove her nose between the sheets, memorizing the scent of this particular boy. How his mother would love to straighten the bedding, pull up the comforter, fluff the pillow; make everything right. Instead she watches at the window as you follow your dog down the street. creekwater giggles – a deep pool under willow dances small debris

—17—


Taylor Graham

Getting through the Night My search dog, Prissy, sighs as she settles on my bed, a trash-bag stuffed with fallen leaves. November, soggy-bottom on the Patuxent. Survival training with just my dog and daypack. It’s getting dark. I’ve built us a lean-to of branches. Dinner from my pack: sardines with trail-mix, dry kibble for Prissy. Tea-water warmed by a flame that needs tending like a sick baby. Lights out: a leaf-fall bed’s for sharing. I squeeze in between fire and dog; imagine sleep; turn over, try to get comfortable on hard damp; turn again. Feed the fire. Tell Prissy a bedtime story, child lost in dark winter woods, saved by a search dog. Feed the fire, invent more stories. Time lapses in ever-present tense through the night. My dog and I, talking in the dark.

—18—


What the Wind Says

Cowboy, 10 weeks

—19—


Taylor Graham

Relic for puppy Cowboy He’s got the currycomb again, his bright new teeth interlocked with rusty metal; red-chipped enamel chewed from the handle. Our fault – we left it lie within his reach. Now he expects a scold, he knows we’ll take away the toy that’s not a toy, that tastes like a grandsire he never knew; his own mother; generations of shed dogs, DNA that locks him to himself by bloodlines out of memory. Who owns it, anyway? We only keep it to comb out old dead hair.

—20—


What the Wind Says

Unposted A dog-lover learns trespass. My black-masked dog travels shotgun, both county road and interstate. Stop here! he says, then ranges out through somebody’s unattended sag-fence field gone crazy to anise, mustard blossoming yellow among the faded Miller cans and rabbit droppings. A good dog leaves his own. Once our tail-lights disappear around the next curve west, the only evidence will be this lush forge of wild radish at a certain spot he marked, thrusting flowers delicately blue as moth wings, a flight that’s never lighted on questions of ownership.

—21—


Taylor Graham

Piper, 12 weeks, on the trail

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What the Wind Says

Bones The new pup has found a bone. She’s been running the April fields no matter how I call “Come!” past where old dead dogs lie buried. She’s been running the April fields as if they were only always hers, past where old dead dogs lie buried under rain, sun, and earth. As if they were only, always hers, the stones and grasses of the world under rain, sun, and earth push up from underground – the stones and grasses of the world and the bones, like daffodils, push up from underground when we’re not looking; too busy. And the bones, like daffodils – bone that holds the memory of lives. When we’re not looking, too busy, she’ll chew it to its marrow. Bone that holds the memory of lives. No matter how I call “Come!” she’ll chew it to its marrow. The new pup has found a bone.

—23—


Taylor Graham

Thanksgiving Morning for Roxy The wheels rolled you under, turned you back up out of loam, out of cut grain and stubble, so your eyes startled wide with the fright of daylight, way past pain. You should have been dead on that day of harvest. Surely it killed you. But this is the day after. I’m using first-light for mending, such scant daylight when it isn’t easy to thread a needle. But mending is a way to give thanks for time: regaining what used to be ours, the things we’ve torn and used up, finished off, not thought of. The doors that no longer open because we slammed them too hard shut, and simply boarded them up instead of pulling nails and hinges, putting them back together right. Where have we left the imprint of our fingers, the dusting of our breath on a good day’s work? Last night a surgeon stitched you back to your life, not for love of you, but knowing his tools, how they take and give back, how they implant and cut. All night I dreamed how we’ve taken things apart to parts, none so beautiful as the whole, seen in a slanting, sharpened blade of light.

—24—


What the Wind Says

Petting the Puppy in Storm Thunder transfers to static in fur, each single hair reaching out for a signal transmission – her eyes caught between brown rhapsody of hand-touch & lightning – impending possibilities untying every knot, unloosing leashes. Outside the window, Thor’s hammer-bolts in revue, crush of pressure/boom/ incandescence (the house held by its lightning rod) sulfur our room airlocked between worlds, my pup electric ever-ready.

—25—


Taylor Graham

Screen Door The cat woke me at 4:30, yowling outside the open screen. Voice of owls and thunderheads. In the dark curling around my ankles at the doorway, the cat would not come in or out. Woke me from dreams of a puppy – our old dead dog beyond time – gazing through the door, wanting in or out. In dreams, who ever knows? – searching for you among the living, or wishing to see again the rockheap where foxes had their den; hillside she loved before she died. Screen-door of a poem looking out, and looking in. Darkest quadrant of the mind that can’t be happy where it is, ever-longing for something on the other side.

—26—


What the Wind Says

Cowboy

—27—


Taylor Graham

Dog Tweets Basic English: heel, come, sit, stay, dinnertime. Pepper left 3 pieces of kibble. Roxy perks ears, checks Pepper’s dish, scarfs it up. What we have to spell: r-e-a-d-y? c-a-r-k-e-y-s… t-a-k-e d-o-g-s?… l-e-t’-s… and still they understand. Cowboy relaxes on the porch. Between front door & car. See my boots, muddy from last time? Ready. He won’t be left behind. Avalanche search: Maj. Clark’s in charge. Maj Clark says… Maj Clark wants… Major whines, paws your arm. No one’s taught him how to “clark.” Proofing obedience, Sit-Stay: o what a handsome lad u r, come would u like a biscuit? Taco sits rooted, lifts right paw to shake her hand. Disaster-dog vocab: search, climb (ladder), thru (culvert, chink in rubble). So many dead, just show us the living. Sardy tries her best. Outside Las Vegas she turns off my well-laid track. Bad dog? Shows me a stranger face-down on desert sand, lost in mind; alive. Good dog. I wonder what happened to the rawhide bone? Loki dashes down the hall, onto the bed, digs it out from between our pillows. Prissy’s reward: a stick; walking behind the litter, escorting her live “find.” Carrying that stick all day, never letting it fall.

—28—


What the Wind Says

—29—


Taylor Graham

What They Didn’t Mention at the Briefing, Or, Believe Your Dog If you say “go find him” and your dog wanders off the logging spur, goes nosing down a game-trail so you have to crawl on hands and knees, don’t say “no one in his right mind…” and hike on back to base. No, you’d better follow your dog over boulders to the very edge, past the tourist-vista – a nasty drop-off into canyon. You’d better find a way to follow your dog straight down to the river and there’s your missing man wading out to ride bucking-broncos of snowmelt, the guy’s not right in his mind, but no one bothered to tell you.

—30—


What the Wind Says

Learning the Rules for Taco A hot green globe shuttles across the net. In the near court, the good strokes sing in Cambodian. Beyond, a mixed doubles parries street-talk. I understand no more than my dog, except the rules of tennis. He’s learning manners: Puppy come, sit, stay, down. He’d rather chase that ball outside the painted lines. He’d love to caper on a lawn that’s out-of-bounds to dogs. The lesson done, we walk back home under a cool green moon that arcs to nothing but its lunar rules.

—31—


Taylor Graham

Sardy

—32—


What the Wind Says

Lesson for Sardy Of course I imagined the worst. Midnight callout to a strange town. Two small boys missing from school. Dim streetlights, rows of dark shops and sheds. Blackberry tangles along a creek. My dog lifted her nose, led me to a vacant lot; old reefer. Could two boys really be in there? My dog insisted. Inside, deeper dark. A cat leaped and hissed. By flashlight beam, just piles of junk. My dog had found a cat in a reefer. When did it hit me? Search dogs don’t alert on cats. Back to the reefer. My dog whined – pleaded with me just short of English. I opened the door, stepped deeper inside. A heap of filthy cast-off canvas; on top, the cat – large tabby in hiss-arch, ears flat back. From an edge of canvas dangled a tiny hand. Attached to an arm. Two blond heads, boys who skipped school. Fast asleep. Two young truants taught me, you can hide under a cat, but the dog will find you.

—33—


Taylor Graham

Light off Clear Water Onshore waves lap against this Sunday drone of power-boats out past the launch, a beached canoe. We’re trolling in a jon-boat, triangulating on a distant hill; my dog in the bow, nose to the wind – a sudden dip of head, she turns to point it as we move beyond. Next pass, we double-check. She grabs at water, grasps at scent. We mark the spot. On shore, they’re asking the mother so many questions about a boy she can picture like her hand. Now the dive-team’s at the float we placed; down 67 feet, reporting thermoclines and current. The mother gazes across flat blue water. There are depths she hadn’t guessed.

—34—


What the Wind Says

Downtown with Dog We’re walking down Main, past the Liars Bench and the Hangman’s Tree and all the old bronzed forty-niner history. My dog goes snuffling, checking out whoever walked here shedding scurfs of skin and dandruff for the bit of afternoon breeze to play with, and a single line of westbound cars to carry along like pebbles in their tire-treads, and the single line bound east toward City Hall or the old Soda Works creating opposite streams and eddies of air, and people walking from shop to shop swirling up scent as they shift their bags one arm to the other. Each passerby’s presented in a million tiny packages, scattered for a dog’s nose to put back together. Mine makes good work of it, jigsaw-puzzler in a German Shepherd suit. He trots along as kids in front of the old Bell Tower make room, and two women murmuring window-front to bakery do a fancy side-step without breaking conversation. A dog writes his own town history without monuments.

—35—


Taylor Graham

Cody’s Gifts She fetches me a stick, then sports it out of reach. I watch the shadow of her leaps as sun leaves purple splotches under pines. She brings a tennis ball. I throw it away, she prances it back. I refuse to taste its history of serves and volleys; tight-sprung strings; its flights. She shares her panting, dog-words I only partly understand. But I know the peculiar amber focus of her eyes. Without a calendar, her tongue exults in equinox. This new spring morning, her gift is dances on the tilt of earth.

—36—


What the Wind Says

Earthquake, Piper The old dog is a broken wagon, a frayed quilt. I run my fingers through her dust and worn-out dog-hair. On the TV news, percussion of buildings fracturing across ocean. The needle shakes along the graph, a vibraphone. Smell of burnt toast from the kitchen. If the hind legs fail, the front must go forward on their own. Remember how she chewed out of her crate in cargo, trying to find you – she’d claw her way up through a cabin floor. She could crawl from the tightest trapspace, searching for life. Last night in the dark she sailed around our house. Asleep now, falling into the void, and beyond the breakup of this world.

—37—


Taylor Graham

Viewpoint From the river looking up, I can’t see the grand vista – granite cliffs across the gorge, silver veils of waterfall, the dance of sun sparkling crystals caught in rock. We’re down here in river bottom, water fierce-gray with storm; boulders slick underfoot. My dog picks the way – head high as if she were a kite on the wind, the rush-flood of air down-canyon, downdraft off the cliffs, air that carries scent to a search dog. She leaps boulder to boulder as we work against the current – wind and water that formed this place, a hazard so beautiful I watch every step, the river taking to itself, down and away.

—38—


What the Wind Says

The Dog, the Search, and the Poem My dog samples the air and trots ahead of me. She’s finding out all sorts of things about this morning and this new place – things she can’t convey to me in English. If poetry is sensory, then she has a poet’s nose. We’ve been up since way before dawn, driving across three counties to watch the sun rise over Sutter Buttes. Now we’re searching a pasture sprinkled with buttercups, shooting stars and lupine. I think of all the human ways to describe such an intense, mountain-blue sky. What I come up with, this morning, is chicken gizzard, cyanosis and bruise. The man we’re looking for is old and in poor health, already missing two nights. The sheriff briefed us on his radio code for deceased. That doesn’t quite spoil the morning, but shades it with unexpected colors.

—39—


Taylor Graham

Now my dog sniffs at the edge of a rutty path, still muddy from last week’s rain. Dogwood overhangs the passage. I check where my partner inhales the scent of mud – and what else? Could that be a footprint? I sidestep to study it from the best angle, against the sun. Details. Clues tell the story, since someone or something left this trace. Two days? It’s such a fragmentary bit of evidence, might be the curved indentation of a heel. Or a deer’s cloven hoof. My dog gazes into the woods with brown-eyed longing but doesn’t offer to lead me that way. I suspect deer. What if this old man took an overgrown track from pasture into woods? What’s beyond the woods? My map shows the contours breaking off into cliffs and serious river canyon. Thousand-foot vistas. Searching makes me look at landscape differently. In my pre-search days, I used to be poetically awed and inspired by breathtaking views. I still am. But I can’t help thinking, what if this old man got in trouble down there? What if I have to search that beautiful, terrible place? A searcher always wants more information about the person he’s looking for. The briefing is just the beginning. Who’s missing? WMA 78. That’s white male adult, 78 years old. Herbert Sykes, answers to Bud. Lives in that white house over there. Family moved him here from Oklahoma a couple of months ago, he thinks he still lives back there. Wearing overalls and a tan shirt. Emphysema, high blood pressure. Last seen at noon Tuesday over by that tree.

—40—


What the Wind Says

As I follow my dog through the woods, I run these scanty facts through my mind. It’s like trying to get to know the character in a poem one wants to write. Somehow the physical place we’re searching, and the weather, and who knows what else... interact with those sketchy missingperson details, and the story – the poem – begins to flesh out. Sometimes I learn things this way that I was never told at the search briefing. What I learn may help me and my dog – or some other searcher – find Bud. Or it may not. Sometimes all I have at the end of a search is the poem.

—41—


For almost forty years, Taylor Graham has trained her German Shepherds to find lost people. Her dogs have led her to, among other things, the footprints of a missing woman; two boys playing hooky; sudden screamervistas not meant for tourists. The spot in a river where a drowned man was wedged under rocks… Responding to hundreds of missions with her dogs, Taylor has searched backwoods and bypasses, wilderness canyons and National Parks, and cities devastated by earthquake. Her canine partner has shown her all sorts of things about “this morning and this new place” – things that can’t be conveyed in words. If poetry is sensory, then her dog has a poet’s nose. These are poems about those dogs, from puppyhood to old age and beyond, present still in memory. “All the splashing, nosing, big puppy world in a terrific book of poems.” —Evan Myquest “What wonderful, wonderful poems!!!” —Katy Brown

To order the complete 160-page book, go to: www.lummoxpress.com

Whatwindsayssampler  

For almost forty years, Taylor Graham has trained her German Shepherds to find lost people. Her dogs have led her to, among other things, th...

Whatwindsayssampler  

For almost forty years, Taylor Graham has trained her German Shepherds to find lost people. Her dogs have led her to, among other things, th...

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