Poems by Grace Marie Grafton

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Early Days of the 21st Century

by Grace Marie Grafton

From Canary April/May 2009

Grace lives in the wooded hills of Oakland, California, in the Sausal Creek watershed. Outside her kitchen door is a second growth redwood tree, part of a landscape that was blanketed with old-growth redwoods at the time of the California gold rush, and a short walk east from her house is the wilderness area of Redwood Regional Park, where she loves to hike.

Hail a percussive rattle on window
panes wakes dreamers
who skip sideways into
forlorn.  Numb, neighborly,
gold and the heap of trash
strewn along highway and
blown into the backyard. 

Many animals crawl
to freedom, four wheel
drive across desert,
forgive the greedy bastards
who inherit.

No American escapes.

Supper on the table,
the one who put it there
bikini surfers take for granted,
how many sharks in the water
under piers, never wait ‘til
they’re always moving.




Ladder (5)

by Grace Marie Grafton

From Canary Fall 2014

Cannot say the honeybee is unaware. If it had no
consciousness, it wouldn’t distinguish between
a steel pipe and a flower. A specific flower, the choice
one having a perching petal or open face, a place where
the antennae, followed by the whole round body, enter.

We live in the galaxy we’ve named the Milky Way.
We need no place to enter, we’re an integral progenitor
of the atmosphere that holds our bodies here
in our home, held by gravity, contributing to gravity.
We slip easily in and out of the ubiquitous breath.

Our science describes how the honeybee telegraphs
the flower-field’s location to the rest of the group.
It drums on the outside of the hive. Drums like humans
have drummed and tapped into electric webs,
signals that circumnavigate our galactic iota.

Tapping, a message our bodies respond to. The place
in the womb, Mother’s blood-beat. We continue in that
sound to make our world. Child runs bump bump bump,
doesn’t walk. When we wish to woo, we use
rhumba, fox trot, one-two-three slide of the waltz.

We lift our arms, drop our gaze, enter embrace, approach
another’s heart. If this is the right one (does his heart fit
mine?) we raise our gaze and there, in the eyes, the place
to go in. We say, “Stars in her eyes,” galactic connection,
we begin to beat with our feet, here is the field of flowers.




Lone Pine and Mt. Whitney

by Grace Marie Grafton

From Canary Summer 2016

The mountains and their lunatic height provide
so ready a drama the settlers need never fear
going soft, being bored or feeling life's too
easy. Almost perpendicular, the peaks rise
behind the desert house and corral. Early sun
smacks an implacable presence right into
their waking. They look up to see lines of snow
in the high crevices all summer long while
their lowland creek relinquishes May girth to
a couple inches of ripple. The house-garden gasps,
cottonwood trees and creosote bushes seem
to cough in the drying wind and there's no way
to cool the kitchen down. Up there the stark peaks,
granite gray, perfectly match snow's
white vocabulary. It seems they hear it
all the time, something about being so small,
something about being snarled up in the
minute to minute rumple of meals and
laundry and pumping water for baths.
Look, the cliffs seem to say, look at what it means
to be relinquished into what's beyond breath,
beyond fingernails or food or how to
make yourself understood.


To the 1924 painting by John Frost, "Near Lone Pine, California"


Previously published in West Trestle Review and Lilipoh.



Ship of Fools

by Grace Marie Grafton

From Canary Fall 2011

Choosing won’t cut it because
there’s always the trapdoor of tomorrow.

Loyalty, is the general’s answer.
Patience, says the sage from the back of the boat.

But leaves keep falling, they
hold falling in green pockets,

there is no parachute, there’s no
knowledge, in leaves, of spring.

Each leaf’s different, though we humans
would remake the world “just that way.”

Look at the hybridizer, making
the present rubrum lily flarier,

more maroon. The chef records
her recipe for papaya lime tart, exact

measurements, arboretums are constructed.
We, like the Emperor Qin, keep burying

clay soldiers we expect to see again after death.




Sky Ghazal

by Grace Marie Grafton

From Canary Spring 2016

If you begin with clouds in a spring sky
and you have nothing special to expect of sky.

Bend down, pick up a fallen twig covered with
lichen and moss, damp with rain from the sky.

Gray, green, white. On a back space of blue.
Simple day. Remember old tales of gods in the sky.

You have time. Arrows of light, arrows of rain.
Rumi's line about being specks of dust from the sky.

And if you follow roads that will, come summer,
pulverize to dust, through fields as uncommitted as sky.

Birds about their business, hawks on the search for
ignorant gophers, geese reaching their preferred water over sky.

Lie down in the field by the path, tiny spears of grass
still wet from the snows. You're waiting for the night sky.

What will you say when they ask where you've been, why
you weren't home for dinner? 'I was visiting with the sky.'

Pare down. Pare down. These days, too much to do.
Delineate grace. Impossible. It's wide as the sky.




The Robot Cowboy

by Grace Marie Grafton

From Canary February/March 2009

elected governor, mechanistic future,
every trim lawn wherever anyone
wants it but someone
sensible says, “A lot of mowing
must take place,” time
consumed by groceries and sanding
the paint bubbles, driving faster
not to give up fun while Nature
closes in: West Nile virus Ebola
in the rain forest Mont Blanc sliding
down its sides the ancient
Egyptian sun god burning
us to cancer we can’t venture
outside may as well live in
videos of what we always wanted,
looking into dark skies
where stars still burn.




Vignette #32

by Grace Marie Grafton

From Canary Spring 2012

The impractical. The practical. The run-away. Garden. Wilderness. What’s wilderness now? She says, “uncultivated area,” when taking her students for a field walk. “Enter the uncultivated area of your mind.” They wouldn’t understand language like that, they’re just kids, surprised she knows the definition of ‘salubrious.’ She isn’t sure she knows the meaning, what is it, these days, to be healthy? Does it mean: to enter into the uncultivated, that part of mind/earth that is still diversified? Diversified farming, meaning: planting several crops in the same acreage. The beans feed the trees, wildflowers not only for beauty and history. Farming is cultivation; the meaning of ‘cultivated’ is: to be aware of the value of art and the past, to listen to the classics, read the Greeks (among others), speak more than one language. The “wild child” (discovered here and there) may know no words or may have created a unique language, and so the vocal cords were developed, but one such wild child, after learning to speak his teacher’s tongue, could not recall what his life was like when he was ‘wild.’




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