Jan/Feb 2002 Poetry Special Feature

Three Word Poems

by Taylor Graham


Music Appreciation 101

I'm chopping onions at the cutting board.
Enigma Variations infiltrates this far
from the living room a lilt of magic
from the old dead decades when we weren't
all gunshy, plane-shy, a-different-shade-
of-skin-shy. I'm in the kitchen reducing
vegetable growth to dinner. Next
comes the yearling lamb that bled out
to feed us: a sacrifice the gentle creature
never asked for. Later in the program
comes Holst. I want to know what he
composed about those angry planets
named for gods as unpredictable
as Neptune. I'm heating up the pot,
I'll sear the supper till it's browned
and tender, blended together
over a careful flame. And then
comes Firebird.


Out of Sea-Brine

In the kitchen the old lady's boiling
water, an ocean of sterile sheets
for the red-sky that's about to spread
over an outback bedroom. We're all
mostly sea-water anyway, she sings.

The Kid (she'll always call him that)
is wringing his hands somewhere out-
back, you'd say gunshy of any bed
where a wife can die of what her own
husband shot into her of love.

So many variations on that theme
in a county churchyard overlooking
cliffs and breakers: "Anna beloved
wife" and "baby Jonathan" both lost
at birthing, never to die on bone-
dry land nor drowning back to sea.

But this time Neptune gives up his
creature: the infant surfaces and
squalls. Yes, the mother smiles.


The Gods Get Personal Again

In these latter days the old dog's grown
gunshy, who used to follow master
up a shaky plank to stand at the bow
headed out past breakers; or else
he'd lead out through the marshes
when sailing season ended and teal
and shovelers bottomed down. Now
he stays at home, keeping the front
stoop safe: tonight, huddled under
the sprung-stuffed chair while Jove
aims thunder at him. And master's gone
who might have saved him. Tonight
master's son and the old dog's get
go sailing, where Jove's kid brother
Neptune's gone down to his damp
kitchen and is stirring up a stew.
The mounting waves: just listen
to the variations that a single wave
strung between heaven and the deeps
can play.


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