Two Poems

by Taylor Graham

My Dog and Goethe

Evening. Asleep by the door,
my dog is translating Goethe.
She snores in gutturals.
Smoke from the woodstove rises
into dark. Above the roof,
ravens have found their roost.
The high places are silent.
The old dog twitches Ruhe,
such a hopeful word: calm,
quiet, rest. In this fourth
year of war, who dares dream
another possible translation,

Wanderers Nachtlied II
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Über allen Gipfeln
Ist Ruh,
In allen Wipfeln
Spürest du
Kaum einen Hauch;
Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde.
Warte nur, balde
Ruhest du auch.

Passport of Words
for Elihu Burritt, the Learned Blacksmith (1810-1879)

What’s this, Elihu? I Google your name
on the internet—instant library
that makes equals of anyone who can manage
a computer and the monthly service fee.

But I find I have no rank or standing.
“Access denied,” a website tells me.
The open hands of institutional learning
don’t reach out to welcome me.


How far you walked, Elihu, to educate
yourself: from New Britain a hundred miles
to Boston, forty more to the Antiquarian
Society with its fabulous collections.

How much a man can teach himself,
when he’s willing to walk a universe
of shelves: mathematics, astronomy, Hebrew,
Bohemian, Arabic, Greek, Syriac,

Norse—those sagas of discovery,
sailing to a New World, you translated
into English, our passport to “old Sigurd’s
doing, daring and dying,”


But how complicated is our
new world, Elihu. All knowledge
at my fingertips, just asking for
the password. What a poor traveler am I.