Bird I Never Saw in Daylight
It hit the windshield, changed parabola
of flight. You braked the car,
Great Horned Owl broken
in the ditch. Quite dead.
How gently you cradled it
to the trunk. How many lambs like ours
disappeared to its talons.
Such a beauty,
you said, folding it in plastic;
placed it in the freezer, prepared
to ship to the museum.
Now our windshield
begins its fine-calligraphy fault-
line, a glass
trajectory of dawn-dim into bright.
Inside the Hall of Ornithology
Owl stares down
from its beaked mask,
fixed forever-eyes, its voided
breast and fluted bones
immobilized in flight.
So Many Holidays
The streets were flower extravaganzas,
families by truckloads with chickens and pigs –
maybe St. Francis was blessing
while we just followed road-signs as best
we could, strangers in a white
Toyota – vehicle unpretentious in our native
land but outrageous curiosity
in this place where the streets burst crimson
with fragrances nameless in my language.
Our three dogs with their heads
out the windows, inhaling every scent,
capsicum assailing my senses,
a jolt that never weakens with exposure.
A quote kept circling
my memory like traffic in a glorieta,
intricate trajectories of singular
about life love, or was it freedom,
release from self or finding
on a day not even designated, no
special calendar date.
Was it today?
I’ve never seen a Horned Puffin – this image in the birdbook. But loons, on a stormy Kenai summer lake thundering the water. Not seen so much as heard, the hard splat of waves on canoe, our young dog guarding the bow. We paddled for anything like shore, the tiniest island. Incredible generosity of dogs and loons in an all night storm. The quality of light sulphur-ionic, dark till daylight. What the earth reveals and hides. Some mornings I wake up feeling like a horned crone – this image in the mirror. What do the eyes know? Without a sound, loons still call, more haunting than wild geese. In the lens behind my eye a dog long dead looks back over her shoulder, making sure I follow; if I’ll believe; tell her “Show me!”
Taylor Graham is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler in the Sierra Nevada. She’s included in the anthologies Villanelles (Everyman’s Library, 2012) and California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University, 2004). Her book The Downstairs Dance Floor was awarded the Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize. Her latest book is What the Wind Says (Lummox Press, 2013), poems about living and working with her canine search partners over the past 40 years.