Spring/Summer 2006, Volume 22.3
Taylor Graham is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler in the Sierra Nevada. She earned an MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California. Her poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, The New York Quarterly, Weber Studies, in the new anthology, California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University, 2004). Other work by Taylor Graham published in Weber can be seen at: Vol. 20.2 and Vol. 24.1. Visit her website at: https://somersetsunset.net/Poetry.htm.
Saving the Dog
When I found your dog running free
on the shoulder of the road—that winding
two-lane so far into the hills
under Mars—I stopped my car
and spoke sweetly to him
so he hummed through the harp of his ribs
and smiled with his dripped-dry tongue.
I took him home.
He bore your tag. But somehow,
before your eventual arrival, he disappeared
again in a dark so far from streetlights,
into the wild of ridge and canyon.
This is how we live, here.
If he'd been running deer, does this
make all of us guilty?
I wake in the night, listening
for coyote, bobcat, owl;
at dawn I'll look for the silent
fall of dog-prints in dust.
Between your home and mine,
between the plates full of kibble
and the silver bowls of water,
your dog is running.
Shall we split the difference?
Half a dog for you, the half
that lies quiet at your feet; and
the part that can't stop
The one live puppy moans
and suckles, grunts and moans.
What's a puppy in the womb?
A dead weight. What's the weight
of seven puppies not yet delivered,
with one wedged like a block
across the tomb
of the birth-canal?
It lobes down her abdomen,
sags the corner of her eye.
That eye turns toward you
with its rim of white
Like any dog, she grew up
bright-eyed; you, her master,
were a sun to put the sparkle
there. That was before
this death-in-birth began;
and you, her master, helpless
to enforce the command: Come
Old Dog's Last Week
The light of her eyes is leaking
inside. It's hiding out
in her organs that are failing,
x-rays layering shadows.
She won't eat, her body consumes
everything she's been: the sparks
of puppy wonder, hunger, chew-
bone of wanting.
Belly-heavy, she sways on stiff
legs, her feet splay out
for balance. Door to water-dish,
window-draft to shade, she accepts
our hands as if from strangers.
We call her "good dog" anyway,
as light goes leaking, white to
black, a negative.
the sharpest ray.