Friday, September 24, 2010

Tripping It Lightly

Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Placate the Gorgon, goes the Court’s
prime watchword. See Her Grace
always as She meaneth to be seen:
pearl-bedecked, engowned in royal
raiment, indeed rainbow-gorgeous:
dresses, petticoats, stomachers, vestments
of peacocks’ eyes, of unicorns, cascading
virgin pearls, of hearts embroidered
all around with posies:  Always the same,
ever married to the realm.

But some there are who whisper
differently: why indeed these
poems, of Venus and Adonis, of
the Moon Queen lusting after her
dearest boy, who yet spurns her
whitest flesh and reddest hair? Why
then, more impish still, the murmurs
and speeches, of Actaeon springing
unawares on bathing Diana, seeing,
knowing, and gaping at what wonder
in the nude form of the world’s most
pampered huntress? And, seeing
the naked bather, he feels his head
grow horns, not cuckolds’ knobs,
but great thrusting stag branches
…useless to him as his side reddens
gored with arrows. What must it be

to know in an instant tremendous
royal truths, to be summoned
amid self-opening doors in clangors
of disconcertment—and there,
in her nightgown, seated at table
for cards, waiteth Her Majesty,
robe open, revealing white secrets

soon to blind the beholder
privy now to the dreadlock kinship
of royal nakedness and snake-headedness:
yet “she is lusty, fresh and moist, full of love
and life…and she can trip it as lightly
as a fairy nymph upon the sands and her footsteps
not seen, and much ado with red and white.”

Thus have I writ, William Reynolds,
a first-day’s purchaser of Shakespeare’s
Venus and Adonis, I a mere humble
citizen of London, speaking for many
too highly born or placed to risk free speech…


Thanks, Tom—who has been thinking Shakespeare these last few weeks. And thanks to our other contributors, including D.R. for more of his cool photos (he's been down to Hearst Castle recently), Pat Pashby for the poem and LittleNip, and Jeanine Stevens, who has a new chapbook coming out from Finishing Line in December. More about that later.

Blogspot has made some changes in how we post, so bear with us as we get the hang of these. Things might look a little "different"/wonky. The good news is, though, that it looks like we'll be able to indent—crucial, for poetry! Michelle's poem about vultures is the first-ever-indented poem Medusa has ever published! (I used to use the "center" feature for hanging-over lines.)

More workshops:

•••Jannie Dresser is offering three workshops in the East Bay:

Poetry Soul-Diving
Sept. 29-Oct. 27
North Berkeley ($150)

Let a Formal Feeling Come
Oct. 3-Dec. 5
Albany/No. Berkeley area ($175)

Is the Music Over?
For poets who want more music in their verse, and songwriters who want more poetry in their lyrics.
Oct. 14-Dec. 9
East Bay location ($165)

For more info, check the website or email her at about these or the following:

•••California Coast Poetry Get-Away: I Have a Dream, Jan. 14-17, on the Sonoma Coast. Extensive workshop for inspiring your dreams, shaking-up your imagination, and regaining serenity after the busy-ness of the holidays. Practices include meditation, art-play, writing prompts. Accommodations include a full kitchen, hot tub, gorgeous views, places to walk or shop. Nutritious and yummy food (each participant will contribute food for one meal and help with clean-up), and comfortable sleeping arrangements (double-occupancy room with ample space for finding solitude). Reg. plus $50 due Oct. 1:

•••Closer to home: Sat. (10/2), 10am-4pm: Horse Wisdom Inspires Poetry, presented by Horse Wisdom and Healing Arts at Little Winds Equine Education in Davis. Participants will engage in experiential activities with the Little Winds horses and local poet Nancy Bodily, followed by a chance to express feelings/insights in a guided poetry creation session. $125 includes lunch; limited to 8 participants, no horse (or poetry) experience required. Info:

Michelle Kunert is concerned about the surfeit of vultures in the Land Park area; see yesterday's Sac. Bee. Well, we all gotta eat... I'm glad they take care of the nastier jobs for us, whatever their table habits. But yes, one does wonder why they take up residence in one's neighborhood. By the way, did you know vultures are the only birds with a keen sense of smell? You can imagine why this comes in handy.


Hundreds of turkey vultures are roosting in Land Park,
   ironically, in the area's trees near 13th Ave.
  These birds are the strange relatives of storks
   yet can hunt prey as if they were wolf-pack hawks
   In public parks they eat helpless pond ducks and geese
   and leave around stinking piles of their excitement
   Yet laws still protect them as "endangered" species
   though they've adapted to living in urban neighborhoods
   unlike storks associated with birth and new life
   Carrion-eating vultures
   also tend to circle around dying creatures—
   Have they migrated out of our deserts
   waiting around for our city to also "die"?

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


—Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento
I walk past crumbling viaducts, check eel traps,
mostly empty by October, and from pit heaps,
I gather worn markers and knotted string.
On my amulet, three dragons leap against my chest.
Reaching my hut, I press palms on the etched
spiral over the door.  At the crossroads, villagers
set bonfires: hazel wood, alder, and oak, burning
off summer’s sour drosses. Torches blaze, sparking
branches sealed in first frost. Lazy ones who stay away
will sink in black mire, ice blocking pathways,
held captive by demons in winter’s darkest days.
I move closer, charcoal blackens my hands, cinders
scorch my hemline. Under my flaxen dress, I feel
the arch, the twist—curled metal warming my heart.


—Jeanine Stevens

In October, dry winds
charge in from the Mojave.
Some students, excused
from school, fight
the fiery ring
surrounding the Valley.
Embers smolder
all through Thanksgiving
when holiday garlands
already crisscross
the intersection—
a silver bell swaying
in the center.
Blistering gales return,
stripping young
banana leaves.
By evening, tinsel hangs
shredded and limp
from thick wires.



as a fresh autumn breeze
flutters the curtains—
brushing her face and hair

and wind chimes
chant to the persimmons
urging them to blush orange

and scampering squirrels
chatter as they sample
each fruit for ripeness

and her Muse whispers back
on a puff of air.

—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento


—Tom Goff

Ah, the riches of England! Hot fires
that scarcely heat huge coldstone castles,
those fires lit from the bounty of nearby
noblemen’s woods…Coal mines and tin mines
and lead mines, gold worshipped but largely
pirated from Spain, pearls dived for in Ceylon
and India snug in the lading of ships. What notion
of damage to the goddess Nature? Mast-making,
timbering the sides and bowels of ships…The vital
heat surges up smoking, as do the mighty lines
in theaters of lumber. Swans, mute swans,
decreed as royal as royalty: owing to what
prior abuses of arrow and gun? William
of Stratford supposed a deer poacher.
The hut-warming, huddling, bundling, crowding
drawing on colonies of flea and germ.
What will these humblest peasants
who dine on “coarsest cheat” say, if they know
this plaguey, aguey conglobulation of breed
and birth and starve and decay and fevershake

will so slim the Earth-wide populace,
those cities reduced, their fires banked,
as to cool and chill and snow over the faces
of hills and meadow and town? What
will they exclaim, knowing their grandsons
and granddaughters will beg their way from
farmstead to city, wearing snow jackets, 
ice leggings? What does it tell us that the Earl

of Oxford means to cut down all his woods
(he tells Lord Burghley) for coin to take him to Italy?
And yet, years later, can proudly claim that when
his ancestors held forests—now wrenched from him
by dubious legal means—the “woods were preserved,
the game cherished, and the Forest maintained
in her full state?”

Were Elizabeth’s nobles their own best canaries
inside the bowels of the Earth they’d dominate?
Did the Earl of Cumberland visit his proud holdings
down, where mining pairs would scrap like spouses,
one man to wield the pick, the other man flapping,
savagely driving away bad air with a rag?
Think of it, the lord and master bent low to inspect,
still gaily bedecked in his best gilded doublet:
he came, he saw, and then he—keeled over?


Today's LittleNip:

Everything I did in my life that was worthwhile I caught hell for.   

—Earl Warren


Pool, William Hearst Castle
Photo by D.R. Wagner