Another Dream Poem


When I first posted about a dream poem , here.  It got me to thinking about other poems that had come to me in a dream.  I realized that I had presented another dream poem to my writer’s group back in the nineties, but had set it aside, because there were problems with it.   (There will always be problems, if you transcribe an unedited dream).  I looked in my files, and there it was, with all my colleague’s comments  (Thank you, Katie Alvord, Sharon Bard and Gus Kearny).  I took their comments to heart, and here it is , completely unlike anything I ever wrote before.


Before me lies the castle moat,
Its water stagnant; its depth unknown.
Nearby, a drain that runs beneath the wall
Brings excrement to the world outside.

I begin to walk around it , stumbling,
Until I reach my starting place.
There is no drawbridge; there is no gate.
I long to enter, but I can find no way.

On the castle side, a woman appears,
Dressed in dark linen, with glistening hair.
Her eyes are small and black,
And she looks at me with longing.

I call out to her, for she has turned away,
Wait! Wait!, I say, Please wait; I am coming soon!
I cannot swim, I am afraid, but I must reach her.
There is no help for it, I must face the moat.

I plunge into the water; it is deep,
But on tip-toe I can walk across.
I do so, gulping filthy water when I trip,
And stumble on a bottom branch.

The far side; my clothes are wet, my muscles ache,
And the stench of the moat has soaked me through,
But the journey has been worth the pain,
I’m finally within the castle bounds.

Outside the moat, a woman stands,
Her gown is sodden and her hair is matted.
Her eyes are small and black,
And she looks at me with longing,

You’ve Got to Know the Territory

[See my earlier post on polling here]

Candidates in down-ticket races have  a problem – they need professional help to run their campaigns, but, unless they are independently wealthy, they usually  can’t afford the price of a professional political consultant.  For small cities (in my area of California, we have a number of incorporated cities with a population less than 4000), it is possible to talk and get to know each and every voter, but for larger municipalities, like my own city of Santa Rosa with an acknowledged population of around 175000 people, it is essentially impossible.

What are candidate for low-profile but important offices like the Santa Rosa City Council to do?  I have spent a large amount of time over the last twenty-five years trying to help local candidates deal with this problem.  And, as a result. I have a pretty good feel for the political landscape of this part of the world,  But I am just one person, and the need is great (every two years).  Some candidates, as you might expect, hire consultants from out of the area.   Often this works fine – because the outside consultants have the sense to associate themselves with people who know the area.  But there have been a number of races (I name no names) that have been badly screwed up because the consultants did a poll and failed to understand what the undecided electorate was like.

Undecided Voters

In an earlier post,  I made the following statement: “Undecided voters are usually much more important to look at than those voters who have made up their minds,…but not always.  It’s time to explain what I meant.

Undecided voters are usually important, because the assumption is ( and studies have shown this) that once a person has chosen a candidate to vote for, they don’t switch to another candidate very often – for any reason.   Therefore, the theory is, if you can determine the demographics of the undecided voters, and if you have limited funds, your voter communications should focus on the undecideds.

But suppose you have good reason to believe that the undecided voters will not support your candidate.   Imagine, for example, that your candidate is running in a large field for several at-large City Council seats.   Further suppose that the majority of the undecided voters are Republican, that there are several Republicans running for Council, and that your candidate is a Democrat.   ( Even in non-partisan races, party preference matters.)   In these circumstances, your campaign should focus on turning out marginal democratic voters, rather on persuading the undecided.   In either case, it is useful to know who the undecided voters are.

Dream Poem 1 – The Word

I’ve talked on this blog about autobiographical poems, ones that attempt to express the truth about my life; and I’ve talked about Story poems, ones that seem to be autobiographical, but really aren’t.  There is also another category – the dream poem, a poem that came to me, essentially fully written, when I woke up in the morning.  This poem is a slightly revised version of  a dream poem from the late sixties.


All my life, I’ve been looking for a word,
I mean, the word,
Even when I was a little kid.
I tried lots of words,
But none of them made me feel good.

Every night this week, I’ve had this dream:
A big guy comes up to me and says:
“Okay, kid, I’m going to show you the word.”
So I go with him, and it’s really dark, and…
I never remember anything after that.

Last night was different.
I said to him, I said:
“Listen, if you don’t show me the word tonight…
I’m going to make you.”
And he smiled,
But I could tell he was scared.
Tonight, boy, tonight,
I’m going to feel good.

Story Poem 1

Sometime back, I announced that I was going to post autobiographical poems on this site from time to time.  You can expect more of them in the near future.

This post is the first of a series of poems that I call story poems.   The difference is this: an autobiographical poem tells a story about me that is true; a story poem tells a story about me that appears to be true, but isn’t.

They say the spirit lingers after death,
Or so I hope – there’s so much more to say.
They say that with your final, fleeting breath,
You see your life, but distant, like a play.
If so, I’ll see you once, and once again –
That day we met, that day that first we kissed,
That day you left – forever that day when
You went back to the world that I have missed.
Back to the life of marriage and a child,
Back to him from whom you could not part.
And as for me, I am now reconciled,
I live alone, alone, without my heart.
But when I die, I’ll find you. You will know
I’m there. I’ll linger in your afterglow.

Two Polls are Better Than One

As I said in my first post on this subject, there  are times when an underfunded local campaign is better off doing two or more simple polls rather than one large, more complicated and more expensive poll.   Sometimes, this is because knowing how a particular message is doing with the electorate over time is extremely important; sometimes it’s just that polls can be used as fundraising tools.

In 2006,  I ran a campaign for Supervisor in northern Sonoma County.   The campaign had three major problems:

  • We were running against an entrenched incumbent.
  • My client was under treatment for a serious illness throughout the campaign.
  • The campaign did not get underway until mid-January, less than six months before the June primary election which would be decisive, since there were only two candidates.

[Now a small digression:  the margin of error on a sample size of 100 randomly-selected voters is roughly +or – 10%,   My experience working with volunteer poll takers is that 100 completed calls within a window of 3 to 4 days is about the practical limit (and even then I usually had to supplement the volunteers with a few paid callers.)  This is the kind of poll I am referring to when I talk about the 2006 campaign.]

When you have reports coming in from all parts of a district  every day ( and we did), you develop a pretty good rough sense of how you are doing.  With about six weeks remaining, we became pretty sure that we were rapidly closing the gap on the incumbent.   The problem was,  we were also rapidly running out of money, and if things didn’t improve, we might not be able to afford all the voter communication we had planned.

The solution: a 100 likely voters poll every week for four weeks, at a total cost of around a thousand dollars.   We didn’t poll to find out how well our message was working, or to find out how best to attack our opponent.   Instead, our goal was to develop proof that we were closing the gap and to use that information in a fundraising push.  The plan worked beautifully – the poll results were just as we expected, and our candidate was able to use the information in fundraising calls.  In the end, we lost by around 200 votes out of more than fifty thousand cast.