Taylor Graham

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is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler in the Sierra Nevada, and also helps her husband (a retired wildlife biologist) with his field projects. Her poems have appeared in Free Lunch, The Iowa Review, The New York Quarterly, Poetry International, and elsewhere, and has work included in the anthology, California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University, 2004). Taylor's latest book, The Downstairs Dance Floor (Texas Review Press, 2006), is winner of the Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize.


It’s a 7-pound roast the kitchen girl is wrestling, with cheap forks that bend and a big dull knife, into a skillet that keeps sliding across the stovetop, and if she ever gets it browned and into a roasting pan and then the oven, she’ll still have to listen to the old man swearing at the hired live-in who’s trying to get him out of the recliner where he fouled himself again. 200 pounds is harder to handle than a bloody raw pork roast, even with forks and a dull knife, and they’ll be eating this all week.


The rocking chair in the cellar peels its paint. It hasn’t rocked in a stegosaurus age, not since Aunt Mattie got lost in meditation, watching the little seed-pods ride their parachutes and whirligig rotors across a dandelion field that couldn’t pay its taxes, and so got sold and parceled out for a burger joint that never closes. The cellar rocks itself at midnight, rocks on its dinosaur foundation, dreams of bones.


Mardi Gras surrendered weeks ago to oatmeal the color of ashes and water filtered through the cold stones. Priests in dark robes recite the stations of loss while you, curly-headed rapscallion of ruffles and the harlequin disguise, must sit somber, memorizing each bone of faith. Close your eyes. Outside the window, day-lilies swell to bursting from the calendar of damp earth, blind maggots and dawn-light.


The prince of poets does his deathbed walk. In meter, soft, in meter. He sighs a slant-rhyme of the troubled spirit, gazing out upon a silent city. Moonlight  silvers every roof. Below, the dreamers sleep such fearful images and deep. Which one sleeps without a flaw? A hair, a feather, a broken twig. Who rises before dawn, crumples the dark drafts in the iron grate and sets the spark?


Luncheon. The first course, red and glutinous on bone china, a dish I haven’t smelled in years. Vinegar-tomato in a mold that holds like crinoline in a curtsy. It bites the nostrils as I lift it on my fork. So many imagined afternoons, my mother’s fashion magazines, the swiss-dots and white organzas I never learned to float in, the scabby knees showed through. Speechless to find the words for sweet-talk, sour quivering on my tongue.