Gwynn O'Gara

The First Pears

Promise fattens on baby stems,
green bulges among white blossoms.
As when we found this place
twelve springs ago. To think
we might have missed it,
not seen the sign,
not worked at love.
So thin the present,
so strong the skin
of a burgeoning pear.


A tawny rat runs along the lattice into the hedge,
harmless-looking in the ripe afternoon light, but we know better.

A red-shouldered hawk grooms himself thirty feet away in the mimosa tree.
We can’t believe we are so unimportant to him.

We eat hummus and sushi, agree to return the neon-dyed seaweed salad.
The hummer keeps talking, as does the finch.

Far away, and closer, people and creatures suffer.
The dog, supine at our feet, takes everything for granted but her happiness.

The Cactus and the Sea

Oh cactus shaped like a candelabra,
you hold up the sky like a strong and
happy woman. Is it because you lift
light as it passes, or your memory
of the cross, how the thorns that held you
now are flames? You sing of horses and
cattle, how leather protects the brutal
and the fey, how the horns that gore
call us to fiesta. We have much to talk
about, cactus. You have listened to the sea
so long, milk flows inside you. Milk of lace
and moonlight, nets and the dead. I am
thirsty, cactus, thirsty like you for the sea.

Cooking My Desk

                                 For Steve Kowit

Mom, I’m outside this church . (Wouldn’t look for
you inside except on an architectural tour.)
I’ve stopped cooking dinner and pacing the coast.
Tangled like a tire in Jesus’ net,
I want to tell you how I call from my kitchen,
trying to fire up the hearth with beauty or fun.
What a drag, all that food and shopping and work,
how important it is, how I call from the sink,
Mommy, Madre Mia, Mother, come back!

It may sound like I’m babbling
or letting off steam, but I’m really asking
for your help. I know it nearly killed you or
at least bored you to tears, yet there you were
with your chicken a la king and strengthening words.
You who waltzed with chaos—cocktails, divorces,
disappointments—held on and kept loving
and I’m asking you how.

To Tina in West Hollywood from Me in County Clare

I’m cycling alone down the coast
where rocks and sky are doused with salt
and old men with donkeys haul dulse.

In a phone booth above the spray I wonder
can I entice you away from Hollywood to watch
a man and a donkey cart weeds for their fields?

A man with foam-colored hair,
a donkey with fur like a cloud
plod and slip over the slime-cloaked stones.

Do they know the oak groves where pilgrims stop to pray?
Is their farm pitted with cairns, fertile with bones?
Do they gather sheep horns off hidden slopes?

Black and silent in the silver air,
the telephone tells me what I can’t hold
and what holds me.

I let my wish drop and slowly head for home,
trailing kelp over the earth,
popping pods that pour dark gold.


   Copyright  © 2013 Gwynn O'Gara

Gwynn O’Gara is the author of Snake Woman Poems and two chapbooks, Fixer-Upper and Winter at Green Haven. Her poems have appeared in Calyx, The Evansville Review, Yellow Silk, and the Beatitude Silver and Golden Anniversary Anthologies. She has taught with California Poets in the Schools for twenty years, and served as Sonoma County Poet Laureate 2010-2012. She lives in Northern California with her husband, dog, and apple tree.