Jan/Feb 2003 Poetry Special Feature

Five Word Poems

by Taylor Graham

Photo-Art by Kristen Merola


The Smile of Morning

"as kind as marmalade on toast,"
she thinks, and the rest of the day
spreads golden as any birthright
heritage. A nip of bitter,
but translucent, to make the after-
taste that much sweeter.
This morning she's placed saffron-
bronze chrysanthemums in a bowl;
the radio dial's set forever
to Fauré. Nothing
could flip such a morning
on its face. The clock face
registers 8:05, two minutes
before the news
unexpectedly breaks in.



He was dead a week when they bloomed.
From the garden, a swoop
like owl's wings in the dark; the Harvest
Moon dials some previously-appointed time,
and flips itself a quarter-turn
from full.

What are gardens but a heritage
of dirt? Chrysanthemums bloom black
as the space of a week gone.
Autumn perennials stained with soil,
in dream
my digging hands.


Occasional Piece

"Death of a Chrysanthemum" by which
I think you meant to symbolize,
in falling chords like petals,
that tragic dial of ciphers:
one to zero/everything
to nothing. In autumn colors,
minor chromatics,
our cultural heritage (or
could it be the future of all
mankind?) resolved atonally,
tediously: summer's radiant sun-
flower flipped upon its glorious,
overripe head.


City-scape Fall

Here in the whimper of dials and gears
and circuitry, where grade-separation
is everything: one perfect jab of light
astonishes the sleep-walkers and it's dawn

among us. A shriveled elm tree flips
its greenery into fall, its pale crisp
heritage of leaf. A blackbird pulls
its waves of flight from the fast-food

parking lot. Every love's too late.
On the stoop, a pot of red chrysanthemums
bleeds into the street. What did you need
to tell me, in so many words that aren't

an echo from somewhere outside? Beyond
the city-haze, someone sings a house
to sleep and waking. Believe me, bats
blind in the dusk of morning will find

those distant eaves.


Charting the Luminaries

So far above, the burned-out stars look down
on what's become your heritage: a chart
of trines and sextiles, oppositions
weaving lines across the heavens and a sheet
of scribbled paper. Dial 632 and then eleven
secret numbers; just open wide your palm;
and in a planet's age you'll know
the future. See, she says, the Twins
have flipped into place, they're grinning
back at Jupiter. You'd swear she sits there
humming, eyes closed, dreaming. As if
studying your mandala: a maze of penciled
spokes turning their concentric circles,
a tattered chrysanthemum that was meant
to be a rose. Good fortune comes on Tuesday,
she promises, when the Sun conjuncts the Moon
and Venus smiles at Mars. But if you ask
the date, she sweeps her hand across
thin air. And so you walk out in the cold
of this Earth's November sky, and turn
toward home, navigating by sidewalk
and streetlight more than those burned-
out stars.


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