Shirley Gaines - Artist


North County Santa Clara, Winter 2010

(Chosen for publication by Nils Petersen then Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County)

They walked naked, the Ohlone men, in what is now

our back yard. The women wove skirts, adorned their ears

with shells... before apricot orchards, or Hewlett and Packard.

Before we, and all the others, arrived for the Space Age.

I open my door, stepping into a drift of pink —

petals, like snow, blown from the huge plum tree in back.

Next door, the nanny has parked her SUV, she lugs

tonight's dinner in cloth bags. Our French neighbors are green.

Bonjou. Bonjour. They've rented from East Indians

who moved back to Mumbai before giving me the name

of the market that sells fenugreek and tamarind.

Gone - the mother-in-law who cooked in her saffron sari.

I drive three blocks to El Camino Real, the Royal Road,

turn right onto the street where you can find everything.

The Lanai flower shop, there only three weeks ago,

torn down. Not a board left. Not one nail.

The crossing guards, with a single hand, flaunt their power.

A tide of traffic halts, obeys that arm: uplifted, black.

Teenage boys saunter to the other side. You wonder

what force, what glue, holds up their pants.

Swarthened men clump in twos and threes,

watching, waiting for someone to stop,

take them for a few hours to a job, that pays

enough for rent, tortillas, then some to send home.

Past Trader Vic's to Trader Joe's for ripe avocados,

reminding me of a dead poet. I buy flowers out of season,

then retrace my way: Lockheed, Stanford, the VA.

filled with a kind of grace this deep in winter day.

From where does this green yearning come?

So much has changed, yet this place is home.

© 2010, Shirley Gaines - all rights reserved.

© 2012 through present. Shirley Gaines -- All rights reserved.