At Home with Dog
An oft-told story. He came back
from the war, his old place at the taco-works
was gone. He needs a job. A homeless
dog took him in. He calls her Cordy.
Ask him, he’ll tell you, where the dog’s bowl
is, that’s home. Pounding city pavement,
it was like he fell down a manhole
into storm-drain – Alice’s rabbit hole
to a parallel, surreal world
where fresh-chopped cilantro transforms
to thistle along the berm, and a rented room
becomes a camo tarp you can’t see
from the highway, invisible among cedars.
Praise the Lord, his dog came
with him. The shelter won’t take dogs.
Evenings, he reads by a caver’s headlamp
he found at thrift. Sometimes
he recites Shakespeare to Cordy who
cocks her ears to any rustle in the brush.
Mornings they walk downtown where he shops
for jobs. Crumpled want-ads in the gutter.
He gets his insight, call it his hope,
rubbing the silky hair behind her ears.
Cordy is home.
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).