Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Daughters of Longing

Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

—Carl Bernard Schwartz

We spend millions on some trains and tracks
that never leave the museum,
and millions more on politicians
who meet where voters don’t see ‘em.

The capitol stands so handsome and proud
just blocks away from depression, while
our prisons are full of debts long unpaid
as criminal courts stay in session.

One by one the candidates speak
on how to make government smaller,
if only they had unlimited executive power
and each worker had to wear a choke collar.

There are 7 million fewer people here
than in the Los Angeles area,
which makes life easier to some extent
unless you get shot and they bury ‘ya.


Writing at Your Frontier Oct. 30

Sat. (10/30), 1-5pm: Writing at Your Frontier workshop with Alexa Mergen and Michelle Marlahan at It's All Yoga, 2405 21st St., Sac. $45. Michelle and Alexa were curious about the factors that go into the directions we choose as writers, from journaling for ourselves to writing for publication in blogs and magazines. So they put together a workshop based on good poems that will generate discussion and yoga that will get us breathing and stretching. As with yoga, growth occurs with writing when we inhabit the frontier of our writing, a place of possibility. What and where is a frontier for you? Combining asana practice with conversation and journaling, this workshop provides time to reflect on your role as a writer in and of the world. All levels and experiences welcome. Only 12 spots available; please register early. For more info call 916-501-4692 or visit

—Taylor Graham, Placerville
In the main hall, folks are dancing
to a Texas cowboy-swing.
From the barroom comes the smoke
of a torch song.
But here in the woodshed, there’s
just these two old guys,
you’d say they’re almost deaf
and blind. But listen
how that one fingers the strings
of his guitar like the tresses
of a sweetheart – how long ago! –
and the other nearly tips
from his chair as he sways
in the arms of his saxophone.


—Taylor Graham

In the Kaiser parking lot, I touch the patch
over your eye. Remember those kids at the Nature
Center? Blindfolded, they reached out to trees,
trying to name without seeing; running fingers
over bark, sniffing the platelet crevices, pressing
ears against the trunk, trying to hear
what a tree says.

Now, in this hospital parking lot, you’re
half-blind — a steroid shot in the eye.
A big-city miracle, that you can see at all.
I want to tell you what unseen bird
is singing — I never was good
at birdsong, or at being sightless.
This gift of a visible world. 

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

We were standing below the eaves
With the rain coming down hard,
Almost unbroken as if the water were
A solid that had been forced to
Reconsider its mission.  What was it

To do? Be drunk? Irrigate crops?
Flood a street? Drown an animal?
That and the day around it, gray
With an insistent dull red of the
Traffic light breaking through the torrent
On a predictably regular mission
To change the day with its insistent interruptions.

It was no good.  We knew we would
Be here for a long time. The world
Had turned soft and soggy around us.
We were no longer able to talk through
The downpour.  I remember thinking “This
Is what it must be like all the time when
We grow old and once again live alone.”

I knew this wasn’t so but it
Became a banner and I imagined
The years running away from me,
Afraid of what would happen next,
The water rising above my shoes,
Slapping at my ankles.


—D.R. Wagner

The stone birds shattered
On the tiles just below the garden
Arch.  Broken heads, bodies in
Pieces, more still than death is
Able to make us understand.  There

Was no blood.  It was not a great
Tragedy, just an unwinding, a slow
Unwinding of late morning
As we returned from the hill near
The edge of the sea, from watching the
Morning slide its fingers into the cove
Through the woods.  You said the sun looked
As words might have looked had
There been sound beyond the soft
Ticking of the waves into the coolness.

No, it was just the fact they were
Broken.  The end of a sentence or
The beginning of a lesson we hadn’t
Contracted to understand.

“Raccoons,” the gardener said, “They will
Do things like this occasionally.  I think
they do it just to see what it looks like,
Just to see what will happen.”


—D.R. Wagner

This belongs to the night.
It has those lights about it.
It has that shape we love
That curls into our own body
As we lie abed, not sleeping
But remembering how sleep
Was and what kinds of gifts
It brought to us.

We are unable to speak,
Think ourselves still asleep,
Covered in the cream of darkness
That pulls on our legs, urges us
To dance if only for a moment.

We stand upon the water.
This must be the part of dreaming.
But we find we are water, we
Move through one another,
Scooped into an iridescense
That we can barely remember,
“Mommy, I was glowing.  Am
I still glowing?  I think I am.”

There is Saturday everywhere.
The morning leaks through the blinds,
Slides across the room and finds
Our eyes.  “Yes, you are still
Glowing.”  Right now, it’s the sun
On your skin, the soft, tiny hairs
On the body captures light for
Its moment and fills the morning
With smiles that will stay with us.
They are the daughters of longing.


Today's LittleNip:

Life is a rummage sale. No returns.

—Sally Friedman



Photo by Frank Dixon Graham, Sacramento