The first time I climbed this hill, I was following
my search dog up a rutted dirt road –
buckbrush blossoming fragrant on either side,
a whistle – unseen bird?
Above us was hydraulic bluff
where long-ago miners blasted the face
of the hill away in search of gold. Itinerants
from many lands, part of our town’s history.
Where did they come from? where did they go?
My dog and I were searching for an old lady
wandered from her home; we only found
a goat escaped, gone wild. He stared down on us
from the top of that golden bluff.
The next time we climbed the hill, my dog
and I found homeless camped among the brush.
What’s the prescription, the remedy
for that? I heard a whistle –
lament for a small brick house left behind?
We kept moving, not wanting to interrupt.
I had no answer.
I’d like to climb the hill again,
but it’s a gated community. Where
did everyone go?
By Taylor Graham
Taylor Graham is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler in the Sierra Nevada, and serves as El Dorado County’s first poet laureate (2016-2018). The places she searches and trains her dogs are often where the homeless camp or were recently evicted. Her poems are included in Homeless Issues (newsletter of the local Job’s Shelter of the Sierra) as well as the anthologies Villanelles (Everyman’s Library) and California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University). Her latest books are What the Wind Says (Lummox Press, 2013) and Uplift (Cold River Press, 2016).