Monday, May 31, 2010

Let's Fly to Paraguay!

Gabrielle Toft

—Gabrielle Toft

i’d give you the shirt off
my back, you’re saying
all playful puppy-eyed shoulders
give me those freckles, put
them in my mouth
raindrops are eyelash
hugs, keep
making lists, lover, we’ll
get it all done
babies, birds and that
lady in an orange dress
we're so distractible
in our pigeon holes, wet naps
and canteens
be my life preserver
formaldehyde me in your promises
that space between your neck and back
wild horses and first rain

please, let’s fly to paraguay
shoreline light flirting
with hands wrapped up at
the baggage claim
don’t take everything so
dearest, darling, bear boy
we're a two person
mime troupe, come
talk to me in hands


Thanks, Gabrielle! Born in Napa Valley and raised climbing trees and running barefoot every summer, Gabrielle Toft relies heavily on her dreamy, valley upbringing for inspiration. While she is always nostalgic for "home", San Francisco called to her at a young age, with its dirty glamour and anonymous streets. After graduating from SF State, she taught creative writing to 8th graders for two years in which she learned more about herself than they will ever realize. Currently she is living abroad teaching English, but is still writing about San Francisco and her imminent return. She has been published in Transfer Magazine, Cipatli, SF Bay Guardian and is the writer/editor/publisher of Prodigal Daughter, a quarterly magazine. More about Gabrielle at


Ekphrastic event in Contra Costa County:

Margaret Bell of Citrus Heights has a poem in the Art Passages MIXOLOGY Gallery’s Ekphrastic Poetry display in the Contra Costa County Administration Bldg. in Martinez at 651 Pine St. AC5 received poetry from poets ranging in age from ages 17 to 86. The website ( says: Some works of art received multiple submissions. Rather than choosing one submission per work of art, it was determined that all poems would be published. This is in keeping with the mission of AC5, to act as a convener of the Arts in all its forms, for all members of Contra Costa County. The gallery includes over 60 works of art. If you have not been to see it, we invite you to come visit before the closing on or about June 5, 2010. This Ekphrastic Poetry event was curated by Maria Rosales.

Mendocino Coast Writers Conference July 29-31:

The Mendocino Coast Writers Conference is an intimate conference limited to 100 participants where excellent writers who are also outstanding teachers (including our own Bob Stanley) will encourage you to find and express your own voice. Workshops, lectures, readings, and meals take place on the Mendocino Campus of College of the Redwoods, located, near the water, at 1211 Del Mar Drive in Fort Bragg. At MCWC you get a broad sampling of genres. You can choose to focus on your favorite—novel, short fiction, memoir, poetry—or taste a little of each. The theme is writing for social change—not in the sense of preaching—but in the deeper sense that honest words make a better world. The conference offers workshops, afternoon lectures and discussions, guided writing practice, professional consultations, readings, the Saturday evening dinner and keynote speech, and Sunday nature excursions. Deadline for early registration is June 15. Info/reg form:

This week in NorCal poetry:

•••Mon. (5/31), 7:30pm: Sacramento Poetry Center presents S.A. Griffin in his Poetry Bomb tour. [See the b-bd at the right or last Friday's post for more about S.A. and The Poetry Bomb.]

•••Tues. (6/1), 7:30pm: S.A. Griffin’s Poetry Bomb will travel to Nevada City! Free to all, refreshments and open-mic included—read one poem of social, political or cultural comment and have it included in “The Bomb”. The show will be at the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center, 17894 Tyler Foote Crossing Rd., Nevada City. Info: (530) 265-2826 or (530) 432-8196.

•••Weds. (6/2), 6-7:30pm: Sacramento Poetry Center presents its First-Weds. Sacramento Room Reading in the Sacramento Room of the Downtown Library, 828 I St, 2nd floor. Readers will be Trina Drotar, Paco Marquez, Sandy Thomas and Sue Thomas. Sandy Thomas, a third-generation poet, was born in San Francisco. Her poems have appeared in 24th Street Irregular Press, Rattlesnake Review and WTF. Her latest chapbook, These Stones, was published by Two Trees Indie Press in 2009. She lives in Sacramento. Trina Drotar is a poet via fiction, memoir, art, and design. Her writing has been published, or is forthcoming, in Word Riot, Medusa's Kitchen, and Rattle. A clothing designer and artist, Trina has worked as editor of Calaveras Station and is the current editor of Poetry Now. Originally from San Francisco, she has lived in Houston once and Sacramento twice, where she is completing her MA in English— Creative Writing. She spends July in Fresno studying with writers like Carole Maso, Lance Olsen, Rebecca Brown, and Debra DiBlasi. Sue Thomas is a former newspaper reporter, freelance writer, and advertising copywriter. She taught high school English in Elk Grove for 23 years before retiring, and has taught in Costa Rica, Washington, D.C., and Humboldt State University in Arcata. She was awarded a fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center and was awarded an NEH grant to study the Renaissance in Florence. Sue has been writing poetry for about 20 years. Paco Marquez is a board member of the Sacramento Poetry Center, and has written poetry for many years. This month he is in the process of driving from South Carolina to Sacramento, so his biography has many new chapters to be written. This is his first public reading in Sacramento.

•••Wed. (6/2), 8pm: Bistro 33 in Davis presents Joshua Clover at 226 F St. in Davis. The first 50 people arriving by 7:45pm can expect a complimentary glass of wine! Open mic afterwards. [See b-bd for more.]

•••Friday (6/4), 7-10pm: Youth Speaks poetry reading (under-21 open mic) at Sol Collective (, 2574 21st St., Sacramento. $5 donation.

•••Sat. (6/5), 12-8pm and Sun. (6/6), 12-5pm: Join the arts organizations and artists of the R25 Complex (25th & R Sts., Sacramento) as they join together to host the first-ever R25 Crossroads for Arts and Culture Festival. Free admission for everyone. Bring the family! Children will enjoy puppet shows by El Teatro Espejo on Saturday and Sunday. Art lovers may bid on artwork at Sunday's art auction. Poets will read Saturday and Sunday, including Bob Stanley, Sandra Senne, Paco Marquez, Kelly Matthews and Kate Asche. On Saturday, music lovers can listen and dance to the sounds of the Christian Dewild Band, Marty Cohen and Sidekicks, and The Streamliners; more music to be enjoyed on Sunday with James Israel Band, Aisle 99, and Puzzletree. On Saturday, Bill Trainor and Children's Network will also present. Vendor booths will offer art, crafts, and food. Open house and opportunities to meet the artists and find out more about the following organzations: Artists Studios, California Stage, Ed Claudio's Actors Workshop of Sacramento, Three Penny Theater, Alliance Francaise de Sacramento, MatrixArts & the PopUp Gallery, On Stage, Sacramento Poetry Center, Wilkerson Theater. Info: Ray Tatar (916-600-9536, or Joy Gee (916-370-5628, or go to Medusa's b-bd and click the pic.

•••Sun. (6/6), 4-6pm: The Book Collector (1414 16th St., Sacramento) presents an afternoon of poetry celebrating Peter Ludwin’s new book, A Guest in All Your Houses, with Peter Ludwin and William O’Daly. Free. Light refreshments. Info: 916.442.9295 or Peter Ludwin is the recipient of a Literary Fellowship from Artist Trust. He was the 2007-2008 Second Prize Winner of the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Awards for poems on the Jewish experience, and was a finalist for the Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Award. An avid traveler, for the past eight years he has been a participant in the San Miguel Poetry Week in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He owns a small trailer and twenty acres of land near Big Bend National Park in Texas, but lives most of the year tucked up against the Green River in Kent, Washington. A Guest in All Your Houses is his first full-length collection. Click/pic on the b-bd for more.

William O’Daly has published eight translations of the late and posthumous poetry of Pablo Neruda, as well as a chapbook of his own poems, The Whale in the Web. O’Daly was a finalist for the 2006 Quill Award in Poetry for Still Another Day, the first of his Neruda series. With coauthor Han-ping Chin, he recently completed a historical novel, This Earthly Life, set during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. O’Daly lives with his wife and daughter in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California.

•••Sun. (6/6), 2-4pm: Poetry Rocks in Many Languages at Century House, 2401 Santa Rita Rd., Pleasanton. Come for readings of poems in Italian, Spanish and French with translations. Pleasanton's Liz Fortini will host and read poems she has written in Italian with translation; Award-winning Ukiah poet Jabez Churchill will read in Spanish, & Ronnie Holland, Poet Laureate of Dublin, will read her poems written in French with translations and those of French-speaking poets she has studied. For reasons why language is important, check out Ruiyan Xu's NY Times’ recent op-ed: "Each of the thousands of languages spoken around the world has its own system and rules, its own subversions, its own quixotic beauty." (

After light refreshments, an Open Mic will be held. The public is invited to read a poem up to 40 lines (one page or less) in a Western European language and read their translation or read a poem they’ve written in English. Contact Deborah Grossman for any questions:

(for a more complete listing of NorCal poetry events and workshops, go to


—Gabrielle Toft

he sleeps and
i wonder if, like the tide
i'm going out and he's going in

church goer
i miss you like crazy
you think you've got me all
mapped out
next move, check mate, transcribe
this, baby
its only my
second time

you talked about your sunglasses
like a bagged lunch
and i knew wed never fall in love
well say "were over it"
at half moon bay
ill end up taking you to the donut shop
on your birthday
where youll apologize for being such a nice guy
and ill nod, understanding

i cant promise i wont write poems
to my daughter, to the
nurse who fed my IV
at the clinic, the dark
haired boy at the bar
I want to print out all the times you've
said i love you
and tape it where we met


—Gabrielle Toft

let’s open up the freeways and drive blindfolded, let those car crash dreams come true. we should be reckless with ourselves, our hearts. you were reckless with mine. let’s waste hours and drink tea out of our hands and fuck until were the same person and you won’t have to remember my name, walk away unscathed. except for that feeling, some smell, years from now i’ll still have you looking over your shoulder on street corners, checking under the bed, for monsters, ghosts, i’ll still have you reading my books, mornings you can’t leave the house, i can’t wait until you’re sending me cards still on my birthday, to an old address you have in san francisco, cause i won’t live there anymore.


—Gabrielle Toft

remember the lightning?
there was lightening, wasn't there?
blowing holes
in our
you just sat by the
window smoking cigarettes
smelling like great
oaks, steady, skin like
eyelets, finger read me
like some war wounded soldier, some
black bound word filled
yeah, yeah, what you said


—Gabrielle Toft

you took me to a ghost town
with some of the oldest mummies
in the world
where we both shut up
and felt how
everything was

this is not a flirtation, i remind him
youre just
hot for teacher
i hate what I've become, he says
put me out of my misery
and im all dreamy, loose fitting clothing
and summer shoes

my voice gets a
bit bubbly
with all his oceanography
talk, his
wolf howls
i made three sets of copies,
of reality,
when we need to be brought down

we hooked up last friday and
he gives golden
eyed ultimatums
"i will not write back to you
until you
swallow your pride"
that is how lazy people talk, i remind him
you watch too
much tv


—Gabrielle Toft

we met over three years ago
(pause for escalated CHEER )
i: dreamer of thunder
you: jaguar love dance party
we might be an unlikely match
but im prepared to blow you
heres some relationship advice:
i can be hard to love sometimes

I think of you like
clean beach bonfires, great
body of secrets
infatuation makes me (literally) sick
take a chance, stop
wishing for
third encore

its easy
for some pretty girl to show up
wearing flats and tights
or heels and good hair, whatever it is
that you like
but dont forget, that
pretty girl is just
bad art
eventually shes just wasted space


Today's LittleNip (for Memorial Day):

It is time for inner city meditators. Time for the Victorious Ones to get their hands dirty in the myriad hell and hungry-ghost worlds of the planet. Time for bhikkus and bhikkunis to understand the addictions of television and the comforts of the corporate state. Time for spiritual warriors to taste the toxic garbage of a collapsing ecology. If there is to be any more "time."

—From Hard Travel to Sacred Places by Rudolph Wurlitzer



Judy Halebsky, Kathy Kieth, Carol Frith and
Sandy Thomas. Sandy will read at the
Downtown Sacramento Library this Weds. at 6pm,
along with Trina Drotar, Paco Marquez and Sue Thomas.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Platoons of Moments

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

They broke the early edge of morning,
Filling the positions of the day almost
Immediately. Great platoons of moments
Forming ranks, files, minute by minute,
Hour by hour. There were so many

Ready to greet the dawn that it became
Impossible to predict what might occur
Between morning and evening. Love
Songs rose spontaneously from myriad
Places, decisions and resolutions assembled,
Sure of success. It was as if everything

That could happen on any given day
Would happen today for certain.

This went on every morning, no matter
What; Winter, Summer, Spring and Fall,
A seemingly endless parade. Surely there
Must be something to all this activity.

We stood on the hilltops watching.
We looked from out our windows.
We greeted one another and discussed
Every event as it unfolded itself. Each
Thing seemed new. We hardly noticed

How it all worked until it became
Necessary to remember where we
Were and what was happening to us.
By then our joy had moved to the children.

We continued this way for an indeterminate
Amount of time and then it was over.
At first this seemed strange. Later we
Involved ourselves in the making of it.
We became the things we observed.



Saturday, May 29, 2010

Watch For Luck Coming!

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Joyce Odam

(after Thoughts of the Sea, 1919—William Cahill)

Thinking of the sea,
how it seems to follow you
as if it needs your return;

this morning’s wet blue air
brings back the sound and scent
of long ago summers.

The harrowing cries of gulls
fill your open window,
the sea so close now

it could be right outside;
you could step out the door
and walk out to its edge.

The power is yours, this memory.
You open your door
to the sea—

gone quiet now that you have returned.
This calmness
is what you have waited for—

the three levels:
earth, sea, and sky
all perfectly fastened to each other.


—Joyce Odam

No one was watching, so we went away.
The sea followed with its great sound and

motion ebbing and swelling, cold and haunting.
All the pale gulls of gray skies cried and hovered,

holding their cold places against the colder
ending. We had to leave them there, beyond

our calling—faint with distance—our own—
all we remembered. Our tears blew from

our faces, and we felt the drying. Nothing
was worth the weeping, we decided,

though our eyes retained the burning.


—Joyce Odam

She dances her bony siren-dance on the
shrouding shore as you in your shanty
stir the clam-bisque on your small
wood stove; she offers a gull-feather in

return for just one bowl; she offers to
dance all night for you—as memory—
as mist—then laughs her awful laugh.
Snuff the candle. Lock the gate. Evoke

some half-forgotten rune that will send
her away. Don’t risk your soul for hers.
She lives in the sea and cannot be
appeased. Resist. She can’t be saved.


—Joyce Odam

it is a small sea
just big enough to hold my body
shores reach out to me
the moon will not make tides
my feet can touch bottom
yet I must float
sharks cruise beneath me
and do not know I'm there

days change and pass like
frozen centuries
a small blond child (myself)
is crouched at the edge of stillness
getting the hem of her dress wet
she thinks I am a sailboat
and nudges me with a stick to
make me turn upon the water
I must do what she wants
to keep her from danger


—Joyce Odam

How soon will the boat come for you?
You are such a small harbor;
maybe the boat will not find you.

Will it be a rowboat?
Will it have a sail?
Will it be a yacht?

You are such a poor person,
wearing mended clothes.
And you are not impatient.

All your life you wait,
bent in a looking position,
staring through the glitters
in the direction of the setting sun.

You will not see Luck coming,
until it gets dark.
And then it will be too late
to go sailing,
or rowing, or riding on a yacht.

Photo by Katy Brown


Today's LittleNip:

poems should come from bare ground
night falling on night falling on a black landscape




Friday, May 28, 2010

Hot Bombs & Cool Guitars

Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz

—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

We caught the killer
In the act
The evidence is clear
No happy ending to report
A long-drawn trial in the court
We must convict this wily sort
Because life is just so dear

We tried the case
Under our good laws
Which measure things by weight
A ton of facts to be broken down
Is this witness credible, or a serious clown?
Are the scales of justice caught on the gown?
All this to deliberate

But winning this case
Won’t bring back lives
To share our smiles and joking
Their bodies we still bury
Heavy memories we still carry
The outlook is frightful and scary
Big Tobacco just keeps on smoking


Thanks, Carl! Carl Schwartz says this poem was inspired by this week's earlier LittleNip, Richard Tuttle's "[I want to create] something that goes from the eye to the soul without passing through the brain", and that Carl "offers the attached poem, which observes a product that has been marketed with that same goal in mind".

This weekend in NorCal poetry:

•••Sat. (5/29), 7-9pm: Neo-Soul vocalist Kevin Sandbloom from L.A. and The Saint from Stockton (2010 King of the Mic & ILL List Spoken Word Champ) will be featured at The Show at New Dimension (formerly known as the Wo'se Community Center), 2863 35th St. (off 35th and Broadway, across from the parking lot). For vendor or event info, call T. Mo at (916) 208-POET or The Show is every last Saturday of the month. $5.

•••Sat. (5/29), 9pm-midnight: Poetry and live music with Sene Goss, Kevin Sandbloom, Lakeisha Mondy, Nate Hall. Presented by Malikspeaks and hosted by Tenisha Michelle. Sol Collective Art Space, 2574 21st St., Sacramento. $10. Info: 916-730-5405.

•••Mon. (5/31), 7:30pm: Sacramento Poetry Center presents S.A. Griffin in his Poetry Bomb tour. The Poetry Bomb is a former U.S. military practice bomb. The artifact will be completely converted into a beautiful object filled with poetry from around the world. When finished, it will have a primo paint job just as if it were a classic car, complete with pin-striping. It will also have a window or portal that will open and close making it possible to not only see inside of the piece, but to take poems out at performances to read out loud, and to add future submissions. Open mic—read one poem of social, political or cultural comment and have it included in “The Bomb”.

S. A. Griffin is a Los Angeles-based poet, DJ for and co-editor of The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, awarded The Firecracker Award as best in alternative press, and named Best Performance Poet by Wanda Coleman for the LA Weekly in 1989. Griffin has traveled extensively throughout the Western United States and Canada with Los Angeles based poetry/performance ensemble, The Carma Bums. He has also written for the LA Weekly and is a contributing writer for The Underground Guide To Los Angeles, which remained on The Los Angeles Times bestseller's list for nine weeks. He served honorably as a clerk typist in the United States Air Force from 1972-1976, and was stationed at Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. He performed as the lead singer in local rock cover/folk bands while serving in Alaska. Griffin is also a Dramalogue Award recipient, having played roles in films by several notable film directors, including Oliver Stone's World Trade Center (2006), Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider (1985), and Ivan Reitman's Twins (1988). Notable television guest star credits include Perry Mason, Matlock, Alien Nation, Designing Women, Melrose Place, Las Vegas, Dexter, and Days of our Lives, and he appears as Dr. Osiris in the ride film, In Search of The Obelisk, directed by Douglas Trumbull at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Click on S.A. on Medusa's b-bd for his Wikipedia page.

If you miss The Bomb here in Sacramento, it will travel to Nevada City the next day, Tuesday, June 1, 7:30pm. It will be at the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center, 17894 Tyler Foote Crossing Rd., Nevada City. Info: (530) 265-2826 or (530) 432-8196 or


A new voice heard from today: Kathryn Chun. Thanks to D.R. Wagner for encouraging her to post on Medusa. The first is a rondeau:

—Kathryn Chun

Years before your infancy,
Before your cell-like infantry
Formed a body in your mother,
You were spectral time inside her,
Waiting for destinies to see,
Spec, child, mother, all in agency,
Time declared its own cadency,
One in one in one another,
The future starts.
Seeds in seeds, like you in me,
Imbricate in brilliancy,
Beginnings begin to smother,
Pasts and presents on each other—
But in life’s sweet alliciency
The future starts.


—Kathryn Chun

It begins shifting in the muddy ground,
Which trees soak up in winter time.
Then works its way on unsuspecting bare legs,
For coldness is a natural crime.
It hits you in the gut and stings intestine
And shrivels every heaving muscle,
As flesh withers to its destiny
Of being soiled paper.
It sucks out breath from one's chest,
It sucks out work which toiling years
Have puffed and hardened with strange caress.
It holds one’s face in a clammy grip—in one’s wild fears.
But holds your hand like mother has,
Comforting in your infant years.


—Kathryn Chun

My friend whose face is dark from labor
His skin is a hide from wild deer
Cheeks etched with scars and scratches
Lips whose sticky intoxicant leads beer
To his belly, heaving with moistened air
From ages away to current age
Ages waver from youth to a meek
Eighty years—years playing tricks on his hands
To arms that sling a heavy day’s work
On a back that would be broken
His elbows curved, not yet right angles
But crack when joints have first awoken
He crookedly strums a cool guitar
His body around a musical body
Picasso like—is so like his singing that haunts my dreams
His knees cradle this wooden infant
As musical murmuring seems
To drift down his calves and up his wrists
His legs are planted in the ground
Only to shift slowly with the tempo
His ankles, feet, and toes are a mound
But divide into a hundred pieces
When he taps out time
His toes bob very little to this earthly sound
His body sways to my poem’s little rhyme
As he sits and plays a cool guitar around me


Today's LittleNip:

Hell is easy to enter and very hard to get out of.




Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sea Lust, Cont.

Benjamin Bear visits Good Day Sacramento on May 16, 2010
Photo by Alan Satow, Stockton

—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento

Sand burrows
beneath my glasses,
sea lust
wind-whips my braids.
Perched above
on a hospitable crag,
I bid swooning,
fishing gulls, Good-day!
while far below, my friends
investigate sand, rocks.
Waves crash at their shoulders;
spin translucent rainbows
over white froth.

Powerful rhythms
cerulean, turquoise waters
lull and enchant;
bright sun fills
with summer’s warm life.


We could all use a little of "summer's warm life" right now, especially by the sea! Thanks Ann, and thanks to the rest of today's contributors. We're still Sea-Dreaming; send your sea poems to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on Seeds of the Week; some of these sea poems look like they were inspired by last week's leaky boat picture, and that's just fine.

Today's photo at the top is of frank andrick's Benjamin Bear, caught here when he visited Good Morning Sacramento on Channel 31 a couple of weeks ago. Click on his pic on the b-bd at the right to hear frank read a Spam poem.

I was saddened to read in Wednesday’ Sac. Bee that someone robbed Underground Books, the bookstore owned by Mayor Kevin Johnson’s mother, Georgia West. I had occasion to meet Georgia the other day, and was impressed by her straight-forwardness and energy. No one was hurt in the robbery (at gunpoint!) but “property was taken”. Underground Books ( is in the 40 Acres commercial/arts complex on Broadway and 35th in Sacramento, with a theatre, art gallery, bookstore, coffee shop (Old Soul) and barbershop. It was developed by Johnson’s nonprofit St. HOPE organization. Whoever did this, stop it. Support your independents; don’t rob them!

Actually, if I were to rob a bookstore, I’d probably run away with all the books I could carry—forget the money (which is, doubtless, sparse anyway…)!


—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento

surrender to the constant movement
of the sea

hear the breakers as they draw
a frothy edge in the sand

see the swells

Poseidon is serenading his mermaid
in whispers under the waves

hurry before the fog tucks it all in.


—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento

Ahab, captain of a two-masted whaler,
searched for a whale whose last meeting
in treacherous waters had cost Ahab a leg.

From out of its deep watery abode emerged
the great white whale he was looking for—
tail thrashing a warning to those on shipboard.

Sudden peals of thunder shook the craft.
Its timbers trembled under Ahab’s feet,
sparking the anger that stirred in his soul.

A boat was lowered for the perilous ride.
Harpooner at his side, Ahab, on the prow,
angrily gave command to fire the spear.

Howling for joy, when it struck the beast—
then screaming in panic as his ankle, caught
by the rope, dragged him into the sea.

Wrapped ‘round by rope, fated to drown,
lashed to the whale he hunted, madman
met tormentor in the cold uncaring waters.

Life is troublesome, men have pride,
but one who lays wrath upon a creature
has a brain where madness does abide.


—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento

One foggy night at the Tidewater Inn,
an old seaman sat up to the bar, lit up
his pipe, sipped a beer, and told this
story to drinkers seated around him.

“It was back in ’39 on the China Sea.
A lone ship lay adrift on rolling waters.
Scorching sun was bearing down upon
the deck of the hapless schooner.

Tattered sails flapped loose in the wind.
No crewmen could be seen on board.
The name The Mary Lee could be seen
painted in white on the side of her hull.

It’s been said that ships who have lost
their crew through sickness and death
are sometimes manned by dead souls
of the former ship’s captain and crew.

They take control of the doomed ship
and guide her safely back to port—
but if the dead man’s ship is raided,
those who do so are damned for life.”

Then the seaman wiped his lips and
said, “To this day the ship still roams
the sea and if you should meet up with
her, say a prayer for The Mary Lee.”

Then he re-lit his pipe, smiled, and said,
“That’s all I have to tell unless I get
someone to buy me another beer.”


—Ann Wehrman

She may leak—
paint’s peeling, boards
warped, sun-faded,
metal cans on deck
rusted, salt-pocked,
dirty like her hull;
this boat won’t take us
far, not over ocean
where one needs
a solid ship;
relentless, icy
waves would end
what we should have,
long ago.


—Ann Wehrman

aging boards splintering, needing paint
leaning heavily to one side, close to shore
in water the color of grey sole
smokestack and freighters further out
your sloop still flies her flag jauntily
irrepressible as your knobby knees,
Adam’s apple, and aging libido

flag curls in the breeze
like the wisp of brown-gray
silk across your forehead
on deck, blue and gunmetal boxes
echo your blue-gray eyes
in which I float, out of time

needing paint, leaning—she still sails
carries us off this morning
early dawn breeze chill and sun
rising red, you’ve packed food, matches, blankets

cut through waves, parallel to shore
you lead us South
by dusk, pull up by the island, drop anchor

your sloop holds us; sea rocks us tonight
your arms and warm blanket
wrap around me
I want nothing more than this,
watching galaxies blaze and swirl overhead
lying in your arms, on your ship of dreams


Today's LittleNip:

Life is like stepping onto a boat that is about to sail out to sea and sink.

—Shunryu Suzuki


—Medusa (with thanks to Pat Pashby for Today's LittleNip)

Norma Kohout (center, with red rose) celebrates her recent
Sacramento County Board of Supervisors
award for community service
with a small circle of friends
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Has This Valley Ever Been a Sea?

Sea Horse
Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

Sun swollen
a wanton wave
peels off sand glitter
under salt blistered sky
while in our ears
the roar of incessant coupling
sea with shore
inky kilometer of silence breaks the surf
slough off skin
recover new mantles of gristle and bone
startled by the opening eye of a clamshell
we wait for the foam
whatever it brings from the rim of the future
cargo of jelly sting or tailspin of semen
in a rage to create ‘mid starfish and swordfish
our own streaming kind


Thanks, Pat (and D.R.)! We're Sea-Dreaming this Week, which kind of overlaps with last week's tippy old boat. Send your sea dreams to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on Seeds of the Week.

But don't forget the deadline coming up for Swan Scythe Press chapbook contest submissions: June 1—sooner than you think. Go to for info.

I hope you're watching the pix change over there on Medusa's bulletin board at the right, including the ones 'way down at the bottom. Our new Poet-to-Poet includes Katy and Miranda Brown talking to Jane Blue a couple of years ago at a Rattlesnake B-Day Bash.

This from Charles Mariano, who says he's floatin’ on an innertube in the sea of life:

(Sonoma Coast)
—Charles Mariano, Sacramento

we sat in a stylish
dock restaurant
just off the bay
a mid-week getaway
from real life

through our window
just beyond the kelp, seals
and thin layer
of morning fog,

a small boat
the masts down
slanted, staggered
copping a lean

i hesitated asking
our waiter
the obvious question,
but couldn’t resist

“what’s with that boat?”

he frowned, tried to mask
his annoyance,
then gave me the standard can

“been stuck out there
three years,”
then left it at that

i frowned
wanting details
cursed quietly
between bites
of my steamed salmon,

“well, that explains it”
i said


And Taylor Graham sends us three, which she says are an assortment, some of it kind of weird. But isn't that what dreams do? (Speaking of Taylor Graham, you can see her and other Placerville-area poets tonight, 6-7pm, at The Upstairs Art Gallery, 420 Main St (2nd floor), Placerville. It's a poetry open-mike read-around, so bring your own poems or those of a favorite poet to share, or just come to listen. No charge.)

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Mercury is leaking into your smile. No, your smile’s
gone dull gray, a diminished scale. Beachfront
property in fog. It could be depression, it could be
dental amalgam in your teeth. The paint in your studio,
your favorite grilled salmon. Mercury slides inside
your skin, a musical arrangement sleek as tides
or mermaid song.

Your wife has put out flowers, tarnished-gold
chrysanthemums for a son’s birthday.
Beyond the breakers below your window,
silver-scaled fishes sing pure tone.

Isn’t a symphony at the top of a composer’s
food-chain? Your son dreams in at least four
movements. When did you stop making your own
music? An offspring’s imagined planetary work slides
through the measures, his fingers easy as fins,
as inspiration. It slides in and out of your dreams,
this music.

Maybe he’ll call it Mercury.
Maybe he’ll call it The Sea.


—Taylor Graham

(for Elihu Burritt)

From this upstairs window, such a view
over green England. You can almost
see the ocean—that gulf between
mother and child; families split apart

by old hunger and its New-World chances.
Why can’t a Bristol mother
sail a letter to her son in Boston?
It would cost a pirate’s hoard.

You sit at a plain three-legged table
with creeper curtaining the windows,
scent of flowers, chip of birds
through an open casement, writing

pleas to both sides of the ocean—letters
whose postage costs so dear. Pleas
that repeat, repeat like tiding dreams.
Like the tang of salt air. Tang of tears.


—Taylor Graham

The once-dry creek is wild. Water overflows the banks,
the culvert, floods the drive, my dreams. Debris
backed up against the lower fence. Our house
on its small hill—has this valley ever been a sea?
Did humans climb Stone Mountain as the waters rose?
When hunger taught them it was safe to come back
down, did they sink out of sight in mud,
earth mixed with ocean? Did Ravens spring from
their bodies to become a new race
of man? Listen to Raven with his rumble-croak
from a live-oak down the hill. In my dreams
it’s the gravel-notes of land and ocean changing
places, changing everything.


Today's LittleNip:

[I want to create] something that goes from the eye to the soul without passing through the brain.

—Richard Tuttle



The Sea as Memory
Photo Enhancement by D.R. Wagner

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Mermaid Syndrome
Painting by George Grie

(click/pic for larger version)


are singing in the wind, preening
the rainbows on their bellies, combing

serpents of seaweed out of their long,
silky hair. They sun themselves on

velvet beaches: haul up to gossip: lay
long lean bodies into cradles of kelp

for warm, slow afternoons of humming
and dreaming of the sea. They wave

to passing ships: wheedle and whine
and flip their tails because today

no one will come near enough to kiss
their crimson: those sweet, pouty rose-

lips: those bouquets of perfume, musky
incense from the East. Watch out, though,

for all that red—for the dark passion
that stalks you, spread out so seductively

along that sandy shore. . .

—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines


I watched Spencer Tracy struggle through Old Man and the Sea on TV last night. We all go back to the sea, eventually. One way or another. Last summer we wrote SOWs about mermaids; last week we wrote about the beat-up old boat photo. Let's keep dreaming of the sea for this week's Seed of the Week: Sea-Dreaming—whatever it is you dream about, sea-wise. The women (sirens and mermaids and even a gorgon or two)? The traffic (boats and porpoises and pirates and—yes—oil rigs)? Or even the salt water of the womb... Sea-Dreaming.

Peggy Hill writes that Judy Halebsky not only won a book award, but one of her poems was presented as a poem of the day from the American Academy of Poetry (yesterday, Monday 5/24). See the b-board to read Judy's poem.

Art Beck (Dennis Dybeck) sends us a link to a review he wrote of Neeli Cherkovski's latest book, From the Canyon Outward, from R.L. Crow:

Bob Stanley came across Poetry Map on ( and realized, to his outrage and dismay, that Sacramento is sorely under-represented! He plans to rectify that oversight, toot-sweet.

Speaking of Bob, Sacramento Poetry Center's 2010 Poetry Contest is open for submissions: Deadline is July 15. 1st place: $100, 2nd place: $50; 3rd place: $25, plus ten honorable mentions ($10 gift certificates from The Book Collector). Winners and honorable mention recipients will be invited to read their pieces at SPC this fall. Also, winners will be published in Poetry Now. Enter by sending two copies of your poem(s), one without your name, and a second with your name, address, phone number and e-mail address to SPC, 1719 25th St., Sacramento, CA 95816. Entry fee is $3.00/poem. Coordinator of Contest is Sandra Senne, e-mail:

And speaking of deadlines, don't forget to send your submissions to The Ophidian by June 9. Scroll down on the b-board for info.


—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento

rusting hull
peeling paint
frayed ropes
broken traps
but still afloat
will she meet the boatman on her way down


—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

This old boat
Has been a friend for long
We two are one
In thought and action
An old boat true
Slow but sure
Together we travel
This river of life
Through gray days
Of fog and uncertainties
Into joyous days
Of sun and smooth going


—Kathy Kieth

My kitchen counter is a cluttered beach
strewn with dried seaplants: potions

from the ocean in mismatched jars: kelp,
kombu, arame: nursing me along like

the seaweed soup of the Irish. Starved
by the British, they gathered plants

from the slippery rocks, gleaned slimy
ropes on rainy days while gulls slapped

around them on flat orange feet, nosey
seals bobbed and peered—brown-eyed

buoys in the freezing water of the grey
North Sea. . . Soup simmering over

a peat fire fed them, kept them alive,
buoys me along as I bob between

counters and this clutter of dark green, this
flotsam of jars, this magic vegetation

gleaned from the sea. . .


Today's LittleNip:

Above the boat
of wild geese.




(with thanks to Pat Pashby for today's LittleNip)

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis