October 11-17, 2004: Taylor Graham and Cyril Wong

week of October 11-17, 2004

Taylor Graham and Cyril Wong

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Taylor Graham

Bio (auto)

Taylor Graham 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 Grand Street, The Iowa Review, The New York Quarterly, Poetry International, and elsewhere, and she’s included in the new anthology, California Poetry: Gold Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University, 2004).

The following work is Copyright © 2004, and owned by Taylor Graham and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Junking the ’87 Tercel

Of course we’ll keep the tape-deck
that played “Milestones”
up the Central Valley; “Lost Highway”
through downtown Stockton; and “Let It Snow”
on the jeep trail to Promontory Point
The Goodyears don’t have much tread left The catalytic doesn’t convert now,
and the DieHard won’t hold another winter’s starts The brakes have already saved us
from too many mountains with a view
We’ll hold on to one license plate
for memory’s sake, and the rearview mirror,
as if mercury on glass
could give back 200,000 miles
of our lives
The engine rests inside its metal mask,
which rusts A thin wind fingers
its way over worn seats; swirls and eddies
our dust of 15 driven years We used to fit here, now we’re gone
Beyond the wreck-yard’s cyclone
fence, traffic moves on.

Trail to Showers Pass

Mid-July, 8000 feet Already
the snowpack’s melted, the creek’s run dry Wildflowers past their prime;
we should have come two weeks ago
We climb through butterweed burned
a brown crisp, and lupine going to pod And here’s indigo delphinium
heaped against gold in a shady nook
of willow where a white-crowned sparrow
sings its nest We’ve counted seven shades
of Indian paintbrush
But who cares for flowers
when above our heads
thunder-brows are gathering a glower Nature can always change our plans
Here, in the interlude,
let’s pause under the threat
of tremendous weather Write me a poem
on paper petals, each word a seed,
each line a careful row
In coming snowstorms
every syllable might bloom.

In Uniform

my dog and I stand at the baggage
carousel, waiting for my duffle My dog checks every bag as it goes by:
is this one mine?
To right and left, passengers
pull aside
Is the dog sniffing for drugs?
Or bombs, exploding shoes?

They never even noticed her
sleeping at my feet, LAX to Sacramento,

after days of trudging the scrub-dry arroyos,
backside of suburban hills,
searching for a child whose face
they’ve seen on TV news all week We’ve done our job, we’re going home
Not a passenger meets my eyes
Then my dog nudges an old worn duffle,
and sits at heel I retrieve my bag
And suddenly on all sides, travelers
thank us for coming, for making everything
all right They give room for us to pass Their luggage has been blessed.

What to Take in Red-Flag Fire Weather

your racing pulse,
your pupils branded
with the image of flames
coming over the next
Leave behind
the half-
eaten rhubarb
the garden pool with its
koi and golden
Give up
your wish to live
on a wild

Cyril Wong


Cyril Wong is a published poet in Singapore His work has appeared, or will appear, in Atlanta Review, Cider Press Review, Slope, Asheville Poetry Review (forthcoming) and Spoon River Review (forthcoming).

The following work is Copyright © 2004, and owned by Cyril Wong and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.


A secret kept even from ourselves:
how bridges are falling

between the imagined word
and the spoken one,

between what I say
and what you actually hear
If you could slow
time down, perhaps you might

even hear them falling Bridges of years our hearts

have signed away to crumble,

down the middle, leaving
behind a gasp

of air between two banks, wide
with unspoken truths,

a thousand pleas for empathy New bridges are rising

into form, incompletion, then
falling away Maybe it is

this moment of our lives,
when the bridges

left standing are the ones
we miss, 

when the ones we did
not mean to build

we built
from betrayal, regret, guilt and loss.


Carver wrote so many poems
about fishing
that I would read them all
too quickly
When I read elsewhere
that he stopped
writing stories
and turned to poetry

before he died,
I returned that evening
to those poems again,

his cancer as a dark
fish hovering
just beyond the end
of each idyllic line

break, the page
like an open sea
beneath each poem,

sucking at the underside
of every word
like a boat it could
overturn if it chose. 

Dear Jeffery Dahmer

Armin Meiwes put up an ad for a man
agreeable to slaughter After turning away

five candidates, Bernd Juergen Brandes 
knocked on his door On their first

and final date, Bernd had his penis
removed, cooked and shared between them
Armin said, “My friend enjoyed dying, death” Dear Jeffery, how beautifully consensual!

Imagine it: “Would you like it steamed, fried
or simply raw? Also, where would you

keep my head in the morning? And what colour
will you paint my bones?” Imagine it!

To Meet Your Sky

With you, there is neither
a choice nor any kind of
resistance; my body is
at once nothing and
everything you can possibly
take I watch from the tale
as you carry emptied glasses
into the kitchen — they slash
sunlight into ribbons, gleam
like so many knives in a sink Roughly, you turn on the tap
to wash your hands, then
approach like a shadow
lengthening across the floor,
eyes shiny as blades, your
body closing in Pausing to
hover, you lift my chin like
the lid of a music box, as arms
once mine take off to meet your sky.

Blue Breath

Without resistance, you step into my body, nudging
Shut the door behind you,

Then proceed to flick on every light
In the living room, you
Observe the fading portrait of my parents –

Even in death, that demonstration
Of distance, withdrawal, exact
As the wooden frame around their image –

Mourning the white of a wall You look up

And promise to remember
The graffiti of poems on the ceiling, coagulating
At the speed of injury, grievous life
Images of others I have loved
Far less than you fade too from these walls,
Melting like clocks under your vision’s ray
Parting a window easily by its curtains, you
Let in the sky’s bluest breath, shaking those flowers
Beautiful, lined up like a row
Of happier memories, shadows laughing
Up and down their long and breakable necks.

A Bluer Sky

If this turns to friendship, it only means
That one of us will suffer
That when we meet after the worse of endings,
There will only be this skein of words between us –

Most of them for boredom, fewer for loneliness –
Rising out of our mutual space of breath, leaving

Behind a bluer sky each moment of departure And one of us will cling on to its blue,

Hung on partings like a muted cloud, while
The other rides on a wing of word away from here.

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