Statue of the Blind Girl
Nydia, the blind flower-girl of Pompeii
She listens, not to the green world exploding
around her, not to Vesuvius howling—
the hour has come; of two working in the field
one shall be taken; of two women grinding wheat
one shall be taken; Vesuvius erupts
and the black clouds descend; now we know
this is the hour when the thief will come—
she listens, not to the temples collapsing
or the birds crying from shriveled gardens,
she listens for the one voice who must call,
the one who knows, now that the hour has come,
that she can take us to the boats
and she suffers with our trembling earth,
gagging like the rest of us in this closed air,
but when we walk around her,
to the shadowed side, closer to the wall,
we can see the hidden profile,
the one that disguises her joy
now that the hour has come,
the one that shows her smile.
The Gardener Remembers
On the Dedication of the Great Lakes Gardens
at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, April 14, 2013
The gardener sculpts the land
to help us remember the names
we’ve lost: wild ginger
and false Solomon’s seal,
skunk cabbage and early buttercup.
The plants have outlasted
our indifference, their green lives
passing unnoticed among dunes
or woodland marshes, forgotten prairies
or alvar plains on northern islands.
The gardener remembers.
Children, coltish outdoors
after a long winter, might
gallop on the boardwalk
above Fleming Creek,
while an old man, stiff
in his knees, dozes
through the quiet breeze
that rustles cedar
and carries off
the rattle of woodpeckers.
But the gardener remembers
the pitcher’s thistle in the sand,
the cardinal flower above the creek.
The gardener remembers to dig
down into soil, its mineral reek,
its slime, to coax up ephemerals
in spring, transplanted blood root, reminders
that metaphor is real and wonder
more that the condition of our loss.
The gardener remembers
and those of us gathered
on the sculpted pathways
agree — whether we say it
or not — with the effort
to relearn these names.
Uncertain about the difference
between his memory and the myth,
the thing he’d been told and what he’d seen,
he kept the image of rising clouds
of black smoke looming like dark mountains
to the west, with a flickering skirt
of fire growing larger, noisier,
dancing through the grass toward home.
Over the years Keith Taylor has published some fourteen volumes of poetry, short fiction, translations, and edited volumes. His most recent full length collection of poetry was If the World Becomes So Bright (Wayne State University Press, 2009), but he published a chapbook, The Ancient Murrelet (Alice Greene and Co.), in 2013. He published two books in 2011: the anthology Ghost Writers, co-edited with Laura Kasischke (Wayne State University Press) and an extended chapbook, Marginalia for a Natural History (Black Lawrence Press). Over the last few decades his work has appeared in a couple of hundred journals, magazines, newspapers and on-line sites, here and in Europe, including The Los Angeles Times, Hanging Loose, The Iowa Review, The Chicago Tribune, Poetry Ireland Review, The Sunday Telegraph, Pank, The Southern Review, etc. He has had fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Michigan Council for the Arts. After working at several occupations, some dumb, some great (like working as a bookseller in Ann Arbor for twenty years), he settled in to his role as coordinator of the undergraduate writing programs at the University of Michigan, where he also works as the Director of the Bear River Writers’ Conference and, currently, as the Poetry Editor for Michigan Quarterly Review.