Oct/Nov 2002 Poetry Special Feature

Five Word Poems

by Taylor Graham

Artwork by Tara Gilbert-Brever



Such things come to you on a cool
late morning--the brindle dog you rescued,
abandoned ten miles out a gravel road
in a wilderness of pines--that good dog
dead these 37 years; a girl with hair
the color of cashews and blackberry eyes,
wearing a Sunday bonnet
when those were in style--that girl
you never had the nerve to speak to.

Oh, the things that were
and aren’t, and might have been.
Over years you’ve called a dozen dogs
to heel, and one by one
you’ve buried them; you’ve loved a wife
and sons. In lengthening good age
you’ve come to this
minority of days, a child
and trying to learn its name.



Cashew Ct--that short cul-de-sac
between Walnut and Date--tucks
its minority population into three
small bungalows with 17 cats,
half a dozen speckled dogs
who know their bounds of territory;
five human generations under a single
surname which the postman
can’t pronounce; so many mothers
and fathers, grands- and great-
grands, not one progenitor slipped off
the transplanted family tree.

An undisciplined plumbago blooms
like a sticky blue bonnet
dug from an abandoned homeland
and nurtured here as remembrance.
Down generations the legend passes:
this free land has rescued us.
But beware what’s beyond
the mouth of the cul-de-sac.



He’s been rescued this time,
but how can she call him safe?
His heart, the arteries and veins
that carry his sweet young blood,
that make him, at three years, pure
heart--how can his heart be faulty?
How can he be in that minority ­
such a tiny percentage,
the doctor said--of kids
who won’t grow up to play kick-ball
on the street, or tease a kitten?

He lies now under a translucent
high-tech bonnet, fed by tubes.
In the waiting room, in the next
blue plastic chair, another mother
who looks like she has years
of experience in this, offers
to share her recipe for cashew
milk. "Incredibly healthy,"
she says, "it cures almost any-"
and then the sentence drops
because she’s crying.



She’s found her high school yearbook
you hid under the linens.
She’s Milly-the-minority, so many
classmates dead her friends
turned enemies. It makes her mad.

The ripped-out page (she never
could make a proper paper airplane)
crashes on the carpet, a can
of cashews (empty), a shredded
ad for sleeping pills.

The box you rescued, full of love-
letters from some college beau
and Danny’s first-grade crayon
masterpieces, in the closet
an Easter bonnet

pink frills and flowers like
springtime like no
mortal child who’d grow up
older than a mother ever
could wear.



After all these years
I’m still searching for you.
You were minority leader
of our minds, remember?
You led us through a Rhenish fog.

All that semester I studied
late into the night, twisting
my tongue into foreign meanings.
Nothing could have rescued
me from language.

But you--you ate cashews
from a plain brown paper wrapper.
You spoke English
and didn’t care who understood

For Fasching you contrived
a bonnet like a Valkyre’s
headpiece. The last I saw you,
you were blind-marching
into the romance

of mist and legend.
You were hopelessly lost
and oblivious
and brave.


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