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Alison Parham

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Phillip Wagner

After Heart Surgery

Every day is not the same.
On day four, my heart stops, then restarts.

Alleluia OK, so I'm standing on a crumbling storm wall
watching new weather crash in

but I'm a sailor and want to get back out to sea.

I reach out to the friends who show up alongside me,
those with seasoned hands

like these doctors respectful of storms
who know what works, and what doesn't

surgeons who dip into the dark ink of direct experience
like Sappho, Delacroix, Rilke…

those who know the ever-eroding shoreline.

They show me how to read the sands, unfurl sails, hoist anchor.
They teach me to pay attention to each wave.

Day six and my poet-doctors declare: "No more Beta-blockers.
You're going home. It's up to you.".

I love the poets and doctors, those who make me labor
like a bowsprit, head into the wind.

So day seven, and I disconnect from the dozen tubes and wires
and feel a woman run her hand through my hair, voice like an angel

"Always listen for the music," she says,
"Set your sails according to the wind, you will survive any storm."

After one last look at my hospital bed, I thank my doctors
drop down in a wheel chair and roll toward the exit

which opens to the heart-stopping great rolling sea
of our ordinary out of doors.


Music, and Other Forms of Kindness

For fourteen miles into the Ventana Wilderness,
the familiar rattle of my old Ford F-150.
Together, we follow the rutted dirt roads, then veer off
through a hole in the fence,
bump across an open field
to stop in an oak grove, tall, slow and hazy
what lolls in the long summer days —
as good a place as any to shut off the engine,

set up the tent, camp chair,
and open my fiddle case.
This is where I will sit for three days.

My plan? — eavesdrop,
watch the limbs move,
until I am moved.

It's taken me years to learn to wait,
listen for an opening
then take up my instrument
and try to play along.

How kind —

this beauty.
The only thing that has ever helped me.

My Friend Jacob

My friend Jacob went into mourning
for years, lived alone in the mountains
and twenty miles from town, Nevada City
and the club Crazy Horse, where his wife had left him,

in that beer bar, where she drifted,
got remarried, got divorced, got tired
then decided to move back in with Jacob,
live again on their little farm.

Jacob woke that day and put on his lucky shirt
the red Hawaiian he wore on their first date,
and again holding a bunch of wild iris,
he waited for her.

She never saw the Hawaiian shirt or the wild iris.
On the dirt road back
a half-mile from their farm
she hung herself.

What is that rope
the one that comes out of the darkness
and jerks us
out of our innocence.

Philip Wagner has been published in numerous small publications. He made anti-war documentaries and edited an underground newspaper in the 1960’s. He’s third generation Santa Cruz County and taught poetry for 12 years in the Santa Cruz Mental Health Client Action Network. He’s a member of three writing groups including The Emerald Street Poets which began in 1992 and is on-going to the present day.

Emerald Street Poets
Marcia Adams
Len Anderson
Dane Cervine
Robin Lysne
Joanna Martin
Tom McKoy
Adela Najarro
Maggie Paul
Stuart Presley
Lisa Simon
Phillip Wagner

Featured Artist
Alison Parham


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