Friday, April 03, 2020

Signs of These Strange Times

—Poems by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
—Photos of Placerville Main Street by Taylor Graham 


6 A.M.   

Dawn takes its
sweet time these days—as
if, like us,
it had no
deadline. It makes sure we’re all
awake for magic.


You’ll find a gold nugget sooner than a
package of toilet paper on the shelves.

Security guards in the TP aisle:
don’t you dare try to take more than one pack!

U.S. citizens cross the border, load
up their trucks with TP and head back home.

This store limits 4 paper products per
customer—will they start rationing books?


Spare-time day, shelter-
in-place, stoke wood-stove,
and look, it’s raining
blue-dick and popcorn-flower
all over the green-grass field.


Saturday mid-morning. Empty parking spots filled with spare time. I’ve come for exercise, to find an old Gold Rush town deserted. One car. Two cyclists speed past on sidewalk. A few dogwalkers keep social distance from everyone. Almost every shop’s closed: signs of regret, visit us on Facebook, see you when Stay at Home is lifted. The Bookery’s dark. Pharmacy offers delivery to parking garage; knock on door for service. A couple approaches, instinctively we take opposite edges of sidewalk, exchange nods and closed-mouth smiles. The hardware’s still open—essentials. A not-young-not-old man with panpipe sits on a bench by Arts and Culture (closed). Safe 6 feet away, I stop. From the Andes, he says, a zampoña, and plays for me—

his tune of empty
spaces could make even a
ghost town come alive


One dog lost
after another. Time-crossed
leash-bond of so many years—
human tears. And now we’ve tossed

a dead bone
for the new pup to chew; stone
flung into the pond—a chase
to erase the hours that hone

their bright blade.
In earth, so many are laid
to rest. This new puppy runs
under suns, then sleeps in shade.


Appointments and meetings all cancelled,
no schedule today. I almost
forget to fix meals. Today
I’ll turn soil and mow field,
pet the dog and cat,
write a poem
under clean

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

At dusk, evening star and the sliver moon
and two owls calling across the gloaming.


Our thanks to Taylor Graham and her
bon mots (and fine fotos) about sheltering in place and the spare time it spawns. About her forms, she says that “This New Puppy” is a Rannaigheacht Ghairid (, “Corona (Spare) Time” a Nonet, “6 A.M.” a Shadorma; plus a Tanka, a Haibun, and some unrhymed couplets.

Surely there must be poetry during National Poetry Month, and Sacramento Poetry Center is figuring ways to get around shelter-in-place. Tomorrow (Saturday, April 4), at 5pm:

•••SPC would like you to join them on Zoom for a read-around. Bring a poem, it doesn’t have to be yours, and share it with us. Please register here to be a reader:
•••They will share this reading on their Facebook page if you just want to listen in. You don’t have to download anything new; just register and you’ll get what you need to join them Saturday. If you’re on Facebook, you will see their page broadcasting.

Other SPC plans are returning using Zoom, including Monday night readings, MarieWriters workshops (try it on Zoom now!), and a weekly writing challenge by Nick LeForce. Plus, the monthly newsletter,
Poetry Now, has a new team and wants your poems within the next month. More info about these features soon.



It’s time for more contributions from Form Fiddlers! Each Friday for awhile, there will be poems posted here from some of our readers using forms—either ones which were mentioned on Medusa during the previous week, or whatever else floats through the Kitchen and the perpetually stoned mind of Medusa. If these instructions are vague, it's because they're meant to be. Just fiddle around with some forms and get them posted in the Kitchen.  
Last week I wrote the first 3 lines of a Renga, which is a two-person form, and I begged the general public (especially poets) to come up with the last two lines, so’s not to leave the poor thing hanging. Here is Taylor Graham’s response:

—Kathy Kieth & Taylor Graham

My poor chihuahua—

Too hard to Shelter in Place!

So much fun elsewhere…

When in lockdown, watch the birds
free-wing swing on the feeder.

* * *

And here is what Carl Schwartz (Caschwa) sent:

—Kathy Kieth & Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

My poor chihuahua—

Too hard to Shelter in Place!

So much fun elsewhere…

Outside, chasing predators
Inside, stalking editors


My thank-you to both of these skillful poets for their rich, ripe responses! This doesn’t have to be the end of the Renga, though. Send me three lines (5-7-5, not rhymed) on any subject, and I’ll respond and then send it on to someone, and we can get a Renga Chain going!

Sue Crisp has sent us a Lune (called “Lune”) and a Golden Shovel (“Pecking Order”). The Lune, also called an American Haiku, is a 13-syllable, self-contained poem that has 5 syllables in the first line, 3 syllables in the second line and 5 syllable in the final line.

—Public Domain Photos Courtesy of Sue Crisp 

—Sue Crisp, Shingle Springs, CA 

Sea foam spreads the shore,
raucous seagulls swirl.

* * *

Then here are the rules for the Golden Shovel (taken from
Writer’s Digest):
    •    Take a line (or lines) from a poem you admire.
    •    Use each word in the line (or lines) as an end word in your poem.
    •    Keep the end words in order.

—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Sue Crisp  

—Sue Crisp

I wander toward the cliff of the seashore,
and listen to the raucous quarrels overhead,
as battalions of boisterous terns swirl.

For more information about these two forms, see for the Lune, and for the Golden Shovel.

Emerging Poppy
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of Sue Crisp

And here is a Nonet from Sue:


—Sue Crisp

Time and space, all a part of nature.
Four seasons and a space to grow.
Seeds patiently wait their turn
to push from soil as plants,
feel the air, sun, wind,
as they unfurl,
in beauty,
for our

(first posted in "Poetic Asides" in
Writer's Digest)


As usual, Caschwa has been prolific with his forms. “Spare Time” has an interesting rhyme scheme, plus he has written an Ottava Rima and a Pantoum:


just outside of town
forested landscapes abound
one tire makes an awful sound

like sparrows you’ve never heard
stole a page from the mockingbird
riddled with curses every other word

it is time to replace the damaged part
a dreaded job you’d rather not start
don’t need more stress on that weakened heart

runt of the litter, a donut tire
it will never be more, doesn’t even aspire
in the whole world of rubber, none could be shier

lug nuts loosened, car raised a little
not too much torque, old parts can be brittle
if you had your druthers, you’d sit home and whittle

the tires are switched, you’re ready to go
top speed not an option, just slower than slow
pray really hard that another doesn’t blow

* * *


“busy as a bee” used to be a good thing
until distancing mandates destroyed the hive
take away the pong, and you just can’t play ping
it’s a brand, new view of everything alive
stores closed, no more gleam in that new wedding ring
futures fail when stocks and savings take a dive
some say don’t worry, numbers are on our side
the dead stay dead forever, the numbers lied

* * *

Mexico will pay for the wall
I am not a crook
The South will rise again
Give me liberty, or give me death

I am not a crook
Draft lottery
Give me liberty, or give me death
Take down this wall

Draft lottery
It’s all a hoax, folks
Take down this wall
Lock her up!

It’s all a hoax, folks
Mexico will pay for the wall
Lock her up!
The South will rise again



And here is a final poem by the cheeky Caschwa:


fueling my pen with
high octane umbrage
classical form is not
my first language

if I am to honestly
speak from the heart
I toss the damn form
book away as a start

there’s a knock at the door
the Bard of Avon is calling
but he bears no cosmetics
to keep dandruff from falling

just some pricey books
by the author “Villain L”
and reading them is not easy,
as it involves a magic spell

I tried sending him away
he just couldn’t take rejection
now the odor of his poetry
comes from each and every direction


Once again, thanks to our contributors today as we fill the air waves with beautiful words to while away the time.


April is National Poetry Month—
and don't forget our Seed of the Week: Essentials!
—Public Domain Photo

Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.