Noe Valley Voice June 2003

Wake Up
Poems by Gwynn O'Gara

Wake Up

Wake up

but don't get out of bed.

The first part of your life is changed.

There are pianos.

Someone put them there.

Could it be him

with his lingering music?

He's given you possibilities

that run backward

like hems of colored silk

or a happiness

that seeps into the rain

and lights each seed

left in the dry season.

He's yours. You earned him.

But he delivers you


like a blind cow rubbing against a bush

or a robin

finding worms and troubadours.

South Park Cafe

A punky beatnik sips champagne and sorrel soup.

Her brown curls taste of cress, her bare legs sting.

Young without knowing it, she reaches under the table

for her retro-'60s lover with stringy hair and daisied shirt.

His eyes flicker, persimmon seeds she swallows,

dropping bread crumbs so others with follow.

Ghosts Near Bodie

Across the high desert

rabbitbrush stalks the sage

with yellow flames.

On a dusty path

up to the snow-patched granite

a meadow mouse froze in the night

curling into herself

when the storm blew through.

Beside the road a dead coyote,

legs bent, head missing,

spirit racing to ancestors' den,

children left to fend for themselves.

I Never Finished Swinging

I never finished swinging

up to the huge old cypress

fog hurling in from the sea

sun gliding into the ground.

I could have swung for a long time

fingers gripping the cool long chain

legs pumping, gaining height

daring myself to kick a branch

trying. But we moved away

to make a new family.

There weren't swings, not even

a park. I took up bike riding.

I fell off a lot. But I

never finished swinging.

Never grew tall enough

in foggy town to touch

the cypress with my toes.

The low branch has been lopped

but still I swing

pumping higher

higher into the green.

Gwynn O'Gara's poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Imaginari, The Sow's Ear, Yellow Silk, The Dickens, and most recently, So Luminous the Wildflowers, a book of California poetry published by Tebot Bach. Her collection, Snake Woman Poems, was published by Beatitude Press in 1983. O'Gara is also active with California Poets in the Schools. "I am particularly drawn to working with middle-school students," she says, "partly because I like the challenge, partly because I am still 12 years old."

Born and raised in San Francisco, O'Gara is now a resident of "Noe Valley North, more commonly known as Sebastopol." She says she loves the landscape of her adopted small town. But she can still conjure up some heavy nostalgia for the funhouse at Ocean Beach, Willie Mays and the Giants, concerts at the Noe Valley Ministry, and her first taste of Thai cuisine on 24th Street. She also still laughs when she remembers her son's windy playdates at Douglass Playground, "where I learned that an excellent gift for a newborn San Franciscan is a windproof quilted jumpsuit with a hood."

O'Gara says getting her out of San Francisco in 1996 was "a lot like shucking an oyster--it was messy and required courage, a sharp knife, leather gloves, and a surgeon's precision."

Yes, she's a poet.