Saturday, October 20, 2007


(Sara in 1987, Oakland)

My lez-in-law Sara has her 51st birthday this week. In 1985, I became partners with her sister, and not long after we were lovers, Sara traveled down from Oregon to the Bay Area so she could check out the dyke who had become her little sister's first woman lover. The three daughters of their family were then all lesbians. Sara and I hit it off right away.

Not long afterward, my partner and I decided to take a long car trip back to Texas, showing her my home state and meeting my family. We invited Sara to go with us, and she accepted, along with my best friend at the time. We got to know each other on that long and difficult journey. We continued learning about each other on my visits up to Oregon with my partner, and when we decided to take another long trip, this time through the South (including Texas) looking for a place where we might relocate from California, Sara joined us for that voyage as well.

When my partner left me and renounced her lesbian past several years later, Sara told me I was still her lez-in-law. It meant the world to me.

Eventually, after several lovers who were not able to assume the responsibility of coparenting, Sara gave up waiting on a second mother and at 41 gave birth to her son, Jesse. She raises him alone, as well as teaching special education and ReadWrite, growing most of what they eat, helping with the family farm in the Willamette Valley, taking excellent care of herself physically and emotionally, and acting as a serious ally to immigrants in her town. She has strong Quaker roots, a lyrical gift for music and language, and a passion for dogs. Her son is delirious about her.

A few years ago, my ex was living with Sara and persuaded me to come to Oregon for a visit. I was not able to fly but rode the train three days there and back, in the disabled coach. It was a far more arduous trip than it should have been, for various reasons. And once I got there, my ex freaked out about all the crap she'd never dealt with -- she'd convinced herself she didn't need to work on it because (a) she wasn't a lesbian any more and (b) it had all been my fault, her having to leave me. Or so the story went. It was Christmas, and she was ready to abandon me in my wheelchair in Portland one evening, out of sheer desperation at her own overwhelm. I didn't let her walk on me (again) but, obviously, I was in a tough spot.

Sara stepped in, took over being the host, and made it one of the best holidays I've ever had despite the shut-down of my ex. We had a blast, me, her and Jesse. We established a new, independent friendship from that time, and she's one of my two "farm gals". She's been the source of a great deal of great poetry, much of it published.

To honor her, and the ongoing goodness of her life (she just became lovers with a great woman), I'm copying in here all my "Sara poems". Thanks for remaining my family, Sara. Love you always.


Do cattle have a golden age?
Do goats or horses? Those who grazed
in that first season on a field
when all the grass was verdant lush
Each blade a morsel, salty-sweet
And more (it looked to be) than lips
Could ever fold between flat teeth
An age that lasted only til
the day they reached the barbwire fence
And after that they knew, must know
The ground they'd cover was to be
Increasingly familiar
What little grama that could grow
since they had trimmed it just weeks past
Reluctant croppers of a share
Sometimes standing blank and large
Along a rusted strand, to stare
at meadows which in dreams lead on
to open range

© Maggie Jochild, 19 Dec 2003, 4:40 p.m., on the train near San Luis Obispo, CA


She says last winter's storm brought down
her incense cedar in the back
Not onto any roof or fence,
thank god, but clean and parallel
It lay a while, just long enough
to grow a skirt of blackberries
until she bucked it into logs
and cleared it, tree and bramble both
Along its sawdust-outlined ghost
she plans a march of blueberries
where now sunlight can reach the ground

It isn't that she yearns to tinker
Her love flows strong through any chink
and uses alteration as
a race to ride her heart among
Nor does she hold the common berry
somehow less desirable
than cultivated, trellised fruit
She has a recipe for each
cobbled into syruped rounds
to set before her son the king

But now that she has reached a time
when she is done (or nearly so)
with self-regret --- Her tools are sharp
and oiled, her dreams
are in full spate --- Her line of sight
is good enough for any choice
And in that stretch of her back yard
she wants to harvest blueberries.

© Maggie Jochild, 26 December 2003, 10:53 a.m., on a train in the Santa Clara Valley, CA


I've driven up for winter break
Rogue River pass was ice and skid
But in a sheltered woods my friend
Has built a cabin, single room
Her lover lives across the field
And that house, bigger, with a tub
That runs hot water and a john
Within its walls, is where she now
Spends all her time. Once I see
The cabin, dusty, dinky, dark
It calls me like a magic fort
Me, who lives in urban bray
She says Of course you can bunk there
The Franklin makes it warm as toast

So after dinner I retire
Stuff the stove and climb into
The sleeping loft, book in hand

An hour later, I look up because
A wasp has landed on my blanket
Its body, black and goldenrod
Is vivid on the pale blue wool
I turn and gaze into the room
Below me where the flicker from
The stove's front vent now dances
Off the wings of dozens more
I damp with fear
Doubt my senses Close my mouth
Then slide with indirection
From the bed, down the ladder
Into my boots and out the door
I am breathless from the cold
In just the short walk down the path

But my hosts are still awake
And gape at me a breath, until
My friend recalls I've been in this
Place since the fall. They must have found
A way inside to hibernate.
The warmth -- oh god, they think it's spring

Her lover says, a little cross
It's simple, then, just leave the door
And windows open. They'll go out

Into what? -- My friend and I
Ask each other silently
With a brief but laced-up gaze
After a bit, she makes a bed
For me in their living room
The next day, I go back to face
A room returned to bone-felt chill
On every sill
Are clusters of the crispy dead
I wonder if they lasted til
The sun's first light

Evil is the missionary

Our sins against the smallest grieve
Us most because we can conceive
Of penance for this much within
The time we have remaining
Or think we have

© Maggie Jochild, 3 March 2004, 4 a.m.


Now I lay me down to sleep
Release my soul to sweep the stars
If I return, then kiss me sweet
If I do not, it's not because
I wanted to leave you behind
Whatever sparked my alpha wind
Was not a blaze I could control
And neither can I stop the cold
Which waits to creep into my mouth
So when I sail off to the south
And you cannot, if there's a way
To love you past the break of day
Then know I will. I always will.

© Maggie Jochild, 2 April 2004, 9:40 p.m.


That girl who, when I was four
taught me how to tie my shoes
Sitting on a carport's edge
in a subdivision new with
backyards not yet fenced apart
so all the kids on our long block
played from one end to the other
ignoring boundary lines and adults
until we were called once, then twice
home for dinner -- That girl, age eight
who put my sneaker in her lap
held her fingers over mine
and coaxed from them a big kid skill
I never thought I'd call my own
She was in no kind of hurry

I think of her as she may be now
fiftyish, maybe with silvering hair
piled up loose behind her head, in a
navy turtleneck, thick ring around her
thumb because those fingers, agile once,
are clotted and knotted closed

The way I loved her is one of the
ways I love you. Sometimes it will
be me who sits shiva with you, some-
times it is you who listens to the shame
I cannot even take to god. As if poling
up an uncharted river, the meander not just
slowly marching across plains, but calling
on us, two figures standing in the prow,
to take our turn leaning on a staff planted
through mud onto bedrock, muscling the
all-we-carry around the bend on our side
I will love you every way I can

© Maggie Jochild, 1 June 2004, 8:20 p.m.


She says she planted raspberries so she could
watch the children eat them, sneaking
garnet nubbins to their lips while she
worked just out of view, they hope
They feed themselves as she weeds down
the row of carrots in a squat
Food untouched by grownup hands
A six-year-old's idea of god

Sun and rain and magic seeds
that lodge between their baby teeth
and one new molar, pushing through
to start a voice she's never heard
She feeds them what she can until
they leave to eat another's

© Maggie Jochild, 5:41 a.m., 7 July 2005

(Johnny Knox's Great Grandpa 1994, by Lindee Climo)


She's picking it up: Not just the bags
of organic chick starter and pig corn
she's to grind for slop, using the mill
belted to the old Farmall tractor

Or how to skid behemoths of Doug fir
and Western Red Cedar with a team
of sister Belgian drafthorses who
follow into ferny bottoms, stand in
earned trust and then haw with bunched
muscle all the way uphill, logs
to be skinned and bladed into cants

She's learning stack art, the ziggurats
of musty hay sandwiched with chicken dung
ready for tomorrow's spread onto market fields
lying fallow this rotation; skimming cream
from shiny cans of warm milk, or coming
home from an afternoon at the U-pick
with eighteen pounds of blueberries

She's finding how to live with both
hands full, not born into it but a turn
she made to take in her palm the braided links
which lead back into her unlit family memory
Ten thousand years of uneasy dominion
Meals which must be worked off, harvest
she must share to believe she deserves

© Maggie Jochild, 10 July 2005, 6:27 p.m.


The nutria slunk in last night
from the canal that runs nearby
and one of them, rat engineer
shorted out the twelve-volt fence

They ate all of the carrots I was
hoarding for our snow-bound stews
They left behind the worm-shot kale
Carrots alone were what they mined, sweet
and delicate this year

The dog we've brought home from the pound
slept peacefully beside our bed
He is so desperate to please, I guess
he didn't want to question who
we choose to feed in our back yard

I know I shouldn't care so much
but for tonight don't talk to me
about God's will as if you know
what on earth that means

© Maggie Jochild, 2:41 p.m., 29 October 2005