How She Does It
My dog leaps boulder to boulder,
perfect balance, not thinking where
she puts her feet. Nose to the wind,
she factors slant of sun
and shadow, updraft, eddy, convection
off hot granite, bacterial action
on particles of scent--
the missing boy passed
this way. She performs tightrope
math in midair, works out fluid-dynamics,
meteorology, the smell of DNA.
I'm lost in her
universe of real-life hide-and-seek;
I can only trust, and try to follow.
How does she doe it? Instinct
to pursue, over any obstacle, one
unique scent in all the world of humans--
answer to an equation
no computer has yet solved.
One lost child.
Full Moon Ripples
The boat ramp was hot enough
to cauterize a wound.
The missing lady's relations
had told their stories and disappeared
to shady spots, to wait for news.
Evocative of a murder mystery, but
they said it was just another
full-moon August evening on the lake.
A break in the surface, ripples,
a cooling hint of spray--nothing more.
Belated call for help. In case
the missing woman reached shore,
we searched upslope; bed-
rock mortar where Indians ground
their acorns long ago; a pool
no bigger than a muddy cup of damp
where a golden rattlesnake coiled,
guardian of the dried-up creek.
We climbed the heat-
ladder to its top. This is all
we know. She disappeared like
ripples on a full-moon water.
If they're not here already
maybe they'll never come to snatch
my first-born, my chosen, telling me he's not
perfect. My red-golden sable pup--
a color not in the breed standard.
He leaves offerings on the carpet, no matter
how I lead him like a partner in the dance--
out the door, chanting "do your"
Poo-poops, pup of mine!" Mouth open
to praise Creation, he takes the world
in bright-sharp baby-teeth and shakes it,
tastes its spirit. Cavalier suitor is he,
rhapsodizing on my ankle, my sleeve.
Let them take him if they can.
I'd sleep all night unwakened, unnuzzled,
in unencumbered peace, unloved.
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.