Other Poems by:

Joan Gelfand


Lost in fog’s waterfall 
We snake past Laguna 
Honda where Philip Whalen -
Bohemian, beat, Buddhist 
Priest, lay dying, wailed
 “Put me to rest
On a bed of frozen raspberries.”
“Almost every downtown corner
Displays crippled sick and dirty people
Beat and tromped on
Others look for what to look at
Watch to see
If they are noticed
Where to spend all this money.”
Around the bend, Sunset
And Saint Cecilia’s.
Lost young woman wonders
“Where’s Haight Ashbury?”
Fog wisps and whispers through every open lintel, 
North and South.
Late, yellow lights flicker against dark hills
Dark against light, enchanted silence.
Yellow lights flicker, as we are transported; 
Patmos, Mykonos, Chianti, 
Any hill town west, or east. 
Outside the gate, crab boats carve 
Hunting grounds between shipping lanes.
Yellow lights flicker and loyal foghorn, that 
Great equalizer, bellows. From Russian Hill
To the Mission, we all fall asleep to that deep
Morning, rises, sun shines. A new day.
Beachside, Oceanside, Lakeside, the Inner Farallones
At outdoor concert we rock to drumbeats, 
Heartbeats, wave crash rhythm
Music, birdsong, bardsong transforms
Our sleepy Mediterranean village 
Into Party Central.
Hill town, downtown, c’mon down, 
Teak chaise lounge 
Spicy Zinfandel, a serious talk, 
Or champagne repartee, 
Either way, because out here, 
On the edge of town, 
On the edge of the country, 
On the edge of the continent
We’re all infidels.
And at day’s end, after miles of circling, 
Hawklike searching, screeching, I’ve taken my place
High up on the tip-top of cypress tree limb, 
While fog horn bellows, again: 
I’m home, I’m home, I’m home.
Lines in quotations are from “The Dilemma of the Occasion” by Philip Whalen.

Dichotomy Sonnet
Dichotomy, dichotomy give me a lobotomy
To stop me from fighting with me, myself and I.
The warring factions are acting ruthless, won’t surrender
Self-contempt ambushes love and cannot remember
Who I am today. Do I blame my fingers for fidgeting
While sitting? Or that I didn’t invent a widget
Designed to save humanity? Make me rich?
Besides being tiresome, dichotomy makes me itch.
I want to be the who loves, reveres the redwood, the smell,
And succor of earth, beauty, romance, the ocean’s swell.
Not the one who self-flagellates for uttering 
A hurtful aside, for laziness for fluttering 
I must decide: to enter the day heart shielded, stony
Or to hear the music of all that is: joyful and in harmony.


I climbed all hundred and thirty steps to the top of Telegraph Hill
Where the wind whipped my face and the wide vast of the long
View brought a gasp - a slap to a newborn. To see all seven
Hills and beyond, beyond to white capped mountains was rare, a thrill
And words began tumbling like mountain streams from snowmelt, a song
As I stood at the epicenter of ancient and new perched on that rocky hill
In that clear chill I dug down through the soil of time, the better to distill
The voices that came before mine, that lived and loved and longed.
There were no less than seven (probably more) but at least seven
Ohlone, Espanol, Irish, Italian all living and warring out in the foothills
Then English, Canadian and Russian lived and farmed as the bells and gongs
Of greed, land grabs and time rang from valley to hill, from valley to hill.
New century brought us by boatloads, easily by train and plane, armed with goodwill
Poets and artists jiving on the newfound notes and tunes of Louis Armstrong.
With words, music and brush, we rediscovered the power, the magic of seven.
San Francisco, it all made so much sense, painting and swaying to a windy jazz, fulfilled
In a place called Eden, Paradise, Baghdad-by-the-Bay, to a slice of heaven we belonged
But through the joy was an echo of the dispossessed over there, just over the hills
And we vowed to right injustice, and love our city (except in July!) our city of seven by seven.


An award winning poet, Joan was the recipient of the Chaffin Fiction Award for 2005. 
Her letters, articles, reviews and poetry have appeared in numerous national magazines 
including The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair and Poets & Writers. Widely 
an-thologized, Joan’s poetry has appeared in over twenty journals including: Meridian 
An-thology of Contemporary Poetry, Jewish Women’s Literary Annual and “If Women Ruled 
the World,” an international anthology.  “Seeking Center – A Collection of Poetry” was 
published by Two Bridges Press in 2006. 

In her professional life Joan is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Level Playing 
Field Institute, a non-profit organization providing scholarships to under represented 
UC Berkeley students. 

Currently serving as Vice President of the Women’s National Book Association, Joan 
founded Salon CIEL, an interdisciplinary group of artists.  Her weblog may be found 
at: http://jg.typepad.com/ciel/

Joan received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Mills College

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