Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What DOES Swamp the Boat?

Photo by Frank Dixon Graham, Sacramento

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

I tucked our sandwiches in plastic,
stowed the ice chest in the boat.
We paddled down an easy current overhung
by blooming brush, under the broad leaves
of what you said was hollyhock—I knew
it must be something wilder.
How could you miss the scummy backwater
where tiny wigglies dreamed mosquito
futures—bite and suck till humans scratch
and bleed? The banks began to undercut
and narrow, shadowed into cliffs.
Could I hear water churning up ahead,
where you never mentioned rapids?
Around the next bend
is what swamps the boat.



—Taylor Graham

You’re already out of sight, great explorer
of the Grand Gorge, while I stoop
to snug my laces. Twenty miles in a day. It takes
good boots for a trek like this. Boggy margins,
a meander of oxbows; landscape dissected
by ancient rivers; so many layers of rock
underfoot; uplift and fault. It all drains down
to ocean. Or is that the logic of dream?

I’m following meditations of pasture,
hedgerows full of minstrel birds.
An April reverie, tandaradei
as you march on ahead, clocking time,
pausing only to make notations
on a map. Just listen to that
land-shifting aquifer that’s singing
below the surface.


Our Seed of the Week is Down the Drain; thanks to Taylor Graham and Richard Zimmer for their Muse-ings on the subject. It's never too late for a Seed of the Week! Send 'em to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726.

Stephen Wilson from Stockton writes: My spec poetry Twitterzine, microcosms, will debut this Thurs., April 1st, which starts National Poetry Month in the US and Canada and is my 40th birthday. I'll be publishing one twitter length scifi, horror or fantasy poem per day (M-F) from some of the best genre poets in the field. If interested in joining/following, the link is:


—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

Keeping watch

on a dying winter hour

dozing over snowflakes

blinded by twilight

of a long lost march

a cardinal chimes

along a deserted shore line

you follow the bird

on a salty hedge grove

dropping tunes and bread

from an open mouth
in the trembling air
you explore a declining fog

where a singing creature
flies over a dizziness of fields
longing to befriend its hunger

shyly catch a glimpse
of the bare trees

where the gulf's shining wind

offers you both shelter.



—B.Z. Niditch

In thawing days

by the cold shore

with crazy songs
of forgetfulness

a voice recalls

another earth,

snapping up morning

and pebbles

turning by sand dunes

you watch larger clouds

from black water surf
bubbling around her

for an eternal moment

trembling for fresh air

by coppery miles
of sunlight and laughter

near thresholds of rocks
forbidden to sleepwalk

through a cottage doorway

you emerge dauntless

touching sea flakes
to face the wind.


—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento

Betty went down a rabbit hole

like spent water down the drain.
She found herself in Bunnyland.

What she saw was hard to explain

A white rabbit sitting on a toadstool

met young Betty with a scornful glance.

She asked his name…he began to dance.

Hello…Hello he sang, Everyone I meet,

everyone I greet, be it friend or foe,

never asks a thing, before he says Hello!

Betty said, Okay…I’ll play your game.
Hello…Hello, I’m asking you again,

What could be, would be, your name?

The rabbit squealed back, Let me see…

it could be Kenny or Fred, but it’s not.

My name is Benny, which I like a lot!

Betty smiled and said, I must admit,

I like your big ears that don’t seem to fit.

Could you please wiggle them a bit?

The rabbit grinned, gave his ears a twitch,

and asked, Is this some kind of trick?
Betty said, No…I said Hello, now I must go.

To you it might not matter, but I need air,

fresh air, and she asked him for a ladder,

then quickly climbed right outta there.

Today's LittleNip:

The Slithergadee has crawled out of the sea.
He may catch all the others, but he won't catch me.
No you won't catch me, old Slithergadee,
You may catch all the others, but you wo———

—Shel Silverstein



Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Down the Drain

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—charles mariano

while hunting receipts
for the taxman

kept stumbling across
old pages
scribbled on the fly,

on scraps of paper
filled spaces
lost, buried

it seems
i’ve become
an endless parade
of unfinished poems

fragments, pauses
piles of dead trees

i typed
the pages neatly
to the finish,
lay the stack
beside me
for final review

then write…

“unfortunately today
during a rain storm
and angry bitterness
of flying, fleeting

a terrible crash
a fiery ending,

no survivors”


Down the Drain:

Our Seed of the Week is Down the Drain; make of it what you will. Send poems/art/photo about it to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs.

But do heed the deadlines listed over on the Bulletin Board under Bob Stanley's photo! I've posted the May 15 Dancing Poetry Contest deadline, too; go to their wonderful website for lots of photos of this colorful annual event that takes place in September each year in San Francisco. (If you're wondering why Laverne Frith's picture is on the top there, it's because he's won their Grand Prize twice.)

Judy Halebsky reads on Friday, April 2:

•••Friday (4/2), 7:30pm: Judy Halebsky will read at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento. Judy trained in Performance Studies at UC Davis and is a member of Sacramento Poetry Center's Tuesday night workshop. Since 2007 she has been in Tokyo studying Japanese literature on a MEXT fellowship. Her book, Sky=Empty, was chosen by Marvin Bell as the winner of the 2009 New Issues Poetry Prize.

R25 launches fundraising:

R25 (a group of Artists and Arts and Cultural Organizations sharing an active complex at 25th and R Streets in Midtown Sacramento which includes Matrix Arts/California Stage/Alliance Française/The Sacramento Poetry Center/The Threepenny Stage/The Wilkerson Theater/Actor’s Workshop of Sacramento/On Stage Kids’ Acting Workshop/River City Whitewater and over a dozen independent art studios) is launching fundraising for a new building project; the fundraising will include three parts:

1. Fundraising Drive: April, 2010
2. Community Beautification Day: May 15, 2010
3. R25 Art and Cultural Festival: Art, Music, and Poetry in the Courtyard, June 5-6

If you’ve attended events at R25 in 2010, you know that a lot of improvements have been made: a new bathroom, a new roof and rain gutter, new exterior lighting, insulation, carpet, seating, and ongoing maintenance improve safety and appearance of our busy center. For us—artists and non-profits—to best serve the community, we need to do more, and we need your help! So we have joined together for this beautification project, in order to raise funds, so we can get this important job done! Construction will include:

•••Build an all-new fence along 25th Street to improve visibility, improve neighborhood
•••Lighting along fence will improve safety for hundreds of evening events
•••Signage and Mural along 25th and R Streets will identify the center as an arts and culture space
•••Resurface Parking Lot, both for safety and to make the space usable for outdoor events
•••Awning on North side of building will make interiors more temperate and reduce energy use
•••Landscaping will also improve the parking lot area for events and pedestrian use
•••New flooring in hallways and high-traffic interior areas

Our goal is to raise $5000, and we have already lined up some major donors to support the program:

•••Alliance Française has agreed to match donations up to $2,500
•••Home Depot has agreed to provide R25 with much of the product needed to build the fence
•••D. Powell Construction has agreed to provide free labor for fence construction

Please enclose a check to the R25 organization of your choice and indicate “R25 Fund Drive” on the check. We will mail you a receipt for your tax-deductible donation. (We need help from local businesses and organizations as well.) If you have any suggestions for fundraising opportunities, please let us know!


—charles mariano

i open my notes
to this latest season
slightly aroused

the pages,

blossoming, inviting
tangled sleepily

every spring
this madness

feverish desires
lustful thoughts

i open
unfold you
run my hand
across your vast

then ease in
to a slow
steady rhythm

only you

and forever,

next spring


—Janet Pantoja, Woodinville, WA

a fuzzy black and
orange caterpillar
lumping along

a shiny salamander
lounging in my
dog's water dish

intensely fragrant
pale pink flowers
on the daphne shrub

camellias on a
tall-as-the-house bush

moths flitting around
brightly colored
lantana clusters . . .

popping Mom's
vibrant budding
fuschsia ballerinas!


—Janet Pantoja

A less-than-aromatic wreath still hangs
by my front door, diminished in hue
long past the holidays. An enormous
red bow with bright poinsettias once
adorned its lush evergreen when pine scent
wafted into my nostrils as I passed by.

Now pink silk flowers replace holiday
décor with a faux-fresh springtime look.
Plumed fashion designers, dissatisfied with my style,
added a final touch—a sprawling untidy mass
of loosely woven grass with four tiny pale-blue eggs.
The wreath is for the birds.

Photo by Janet Pantoja

Today's LittleNip:

There is no cure for birth or death except to try and enjoy the interval.

—George Santayana



Monday, March 29, 2010

Maybe Tomorrow...

—Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

love to be your lover, Betty
(but for Jim, Joe and Jack)
love to caress your breast
rising modest as early April
hair tufted like spiky blonde grass
lips that shunned lipstick
weren’t you a slugmugger kid
leaping thorny barberry bushes
getting scratched and bragging to
knee-scabbed playmates
you were scolded at school
for sucking another girl’s nose
sucking what! I said
you smiled…

think of you
at your easel under studio skylight
adding red tongues to your panting dogs
or at the stained worktable
molding papier-maché to your soulful puppets
saw you mount a ladder in the driveway
paint large a woman’s royal blue profile on your garage door
black hair splayed across hinges
jutted red mouth that said fuck you

but your voice wistful as the Madonna
you created from red and gold
it’s your face, Betty,
unconsciously your face, Betty, lost in a rigorous halo
your face
delicate as a fresh green leaf in the rain

*Jim Morrison/The Doors


This week in NorCal poetry:

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

•••Tonight (Monday, 3/29), 7:30pm: Sacramento Poetry Center presents A Benefit Reading for Autism with Rebecca Foust, Julie Bruck and Geoffrey Neill at R25, 1719 25th St., Sacramento. Free, but donations requested; donations will support the UC Davis MIND Institute to support autism research. [See last Friday's post for bios.]

•••Weds. (3/31), 12-1:30pm: California Lawyers for the Arts presents Maintaining Your Arts Non-Profit Organization, a workshop for Arts Non-Profit Organizations of all disciplines, with Attorney/CLA Board Member Deborah Cooke as speaker. 1418 20th St., Suite 201, Sacramento. Bring your brown bag lunch and your questions! Attorney Deborah Cooke will present a broad overview, including requirements for directors and officers and annual filing and reporting requirements for state and federal agencies. Some key issues to be covered: conflicts of interest; loan made by public benefit corporations; director/officer liability insurance and indemnification; maintaining tax-exempt status; political activities; charitable contributions and dissolution. Deborah Cooke is a versatile fifteenth-year lawyer skilled in education law, administrative hearings and nonprofit law. She has represented many non-profit organizations and has given numerous professional lectures on forming, maintaining, organizing and operating a nonprofit corporation. She is also a board member of California Lawyers for the Arts. Fee: $20 general, $10 CLA members and sponsoring organizations. Phone: (916) 442-6210 ext. 102 or email to register. Register early. Space is limited.

California Lawyers for the Arts ( is a non-profit service organization that provides lawyer referrals, dispute resolution services, educational programs, publications and resource library to artists of all disciplines and arts organizations. Membership: Join C.L.A. (1 YR): $40 general individual, $25 working artist, $20 student/senior. This program is funded in part by the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission CAA award, The County of Sacramento, The California Arts Council, and members of C.L.A. The opinions expressed in any of our events and programs shall not be construed to represent the opinions and policies of California Lawyers for the Arts.

•••Thurs. (4/1), 8pm: Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café (1414 16th St., Sacramento) features Justin Desmangles with jazz ensemble, hosted by Mario Ellis Hill. Open mic before and after.


—Be Davison Herrera, Corvallis, OR

"shall we dance?"
a unicorn asks a rhino

Rhino struggles awake
from dreams during a nap

to question testily
"what do you mean dance

horns might lock"
"how about the bunny hop"

counters elegant Unicorn
"your horn's too long besides

I'm too heavy
for real bunny hopping gracefully"

Rhino sadly sulks
"how about a Mexican Hat

dance side by side"
suggests the subtly determined Unicorn

"well maybe we
could side by side somehow

maybe some music"
Rhino lumbers toward a tree

Unicorn enjoys shade
"but NO rules" he thunders

"maybe we'll just
play some swing and sway"

Uncorn tosses her
head up horn sun speckled

snags a leaf
floating on fresh spring air

Rhino suddenly spins
into his own timed groove

"well I guess so
our tails can keep time"

so fine readers
take a look around yourselves

if you happen
to be in a neighborhood

housing some rhinos
and/or some prancing unicorns

keep a watch
out for unfettered music and dancing


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

I so wanted to write a
tender, touching poem;
just usher out those harsh realities
and astonishing epiphanies
like a muffled sneeze.

Truth be told,
I wanted the poem to write itself:
carry me as on a magic carpet,
teasingly teetering on the parapet
between reality and dreams.

Then the phone rang,
and the dog begged,
and something fell over,
and the toast was burning
(I hope that was just the toast)
all this before I could even wake up.

I’ll get back to it
when things settle down
to a world of no strife,
where “conflict” is an obsolete term;
a time when angels are totally bored
because everyone’s been saved
that needs to be saved.

But for now,
in a day when the same fertilizer
that is used to grow healthy things
is also used to make explosives,
I’ll forego planting the seed
of that tender, touching poem.

Maybe tomorrow.

Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz

Today's LittleNip:

write every day
keep the words
don't clog the middle

—Charles Mariano, Sacramento



Sunday, March 28, 2010

We Are Earth of This Earth

Votive Lights
Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Barbara Deming

Spirit of love
That flows against our flesh
Sets it trembling
Moves across it as across grass
Erasing every boundary that we accept
And swings the doors of our lives wide—
This is a prayer I sing:
Save our perishing earth!

Spirit that cracks our single selves—
Eyes fall down eyes,
Hearts escape through the bars of our ribs
To dart into other bodies—
Save this earth!
The earth is perishing.
This is a prayer I sing.

Spirit that hears each one of us,
Hears all that is—
Listens, listens, hears us out—
Inspire us now!
Our own pulse beats to every stranger's throat,
And also there within the flowered ground beneath our feet,
And—teach us to listen!—
We can hear it in water, in wood, and even in stone.
We are earth of this earth, and we are bone of its bone.
This is a prayer I sing, for we have forgotten this and so
The earth is perishing.



Saturday, March 27, 2010

There is No Future in the Past

Artichokes, Darling House, Santa Cruz
Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

My hands are filled with light.
I am able to touch objects and have
Them transform themselves from
My imagination into manifestations
Of radiance. Here a house

Rises from a small rabbit’s foot.
Here a road unrolls and stretches
Out from my desk all the way
To Atlanta. It is like magic.

It is like longing. It is like looking
At photographs and trying to make
Them blueprints for emotions.

There is no future in the past.
As we come closer to the moment
Veracity seems almost under our
Fingertips. The photograph is always
Less cluttered than the world.

I look at your photograph. I am happy
To be seeing you for a moment. My
Hands turn it over. There is white
Space, like snow, like this moment.


—D.R. Wagner

I’m not telling you my name.
I’m not here for very long.
I’m just a voice inside your head.
I’m just another song.


—D.R. Wagner

Turquoise fire
And if rubies could burn
That color, of blood
Near the heart.


—D.R. Wagner

A sweet whisper clipping the tops of waves.
The humidity changing the colors to pastels,
Opening my eyes in already late morning.

I can hear the birds arguing in the palm
Trees. It seems they have important things
To do. They abandon the yard.

I am working over the lyrics to a song
I can barely remember. It says that heartbreak
Can be overcome if one stops feeling.

I am amazed at the way afternoon
Lopes into the room, recognizing everything
But how my heart understands distance.

I begin to sing my own song. There is a
Moment where everything that prompted it
Becomes real again. I can hardly continue.
The birds return and gather near my windows,
Silent except for their beaks tapping the glass.


—D.R. Wagner

Coming over the edge of the slope
We headed toward the shore. The
Sea was an exquisite blue-green,
Roiling, filled with floating ice.

From all sides the waterfalls boiled
Over the cliff edges. Thin veils
Of ice formed curtains in front
Of the waterfalls. They were everywhere.

Amazingly, it was warm with snow
Everywhere. Here is where my studio
Would be, in this pulsating land
Separated from the world by my skin.

I watched the boats toss in the waves.
These would be my ideas today.
I would stand on the edge and move
My mind toward the deepest waters.

When I looked to find you,
You were gone. It was like
You were never there at all,
Then I could hear you singing.
I began to write these words.


Big Fruit, Darling House, Santa Cruz
Photo by Katy Brown

Today's LittleNip:

—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks

Whenever he misbehaved
His mother would intone
“There’s a pickle jar
In the cellar,” instantly
Scaring him straight.

Said it always worked
And that he never questioned
Till he was twenty-five, twenty-
Six: Pickle jar? Cellar?
But by then it was too late.



Friday, March 26, 2010

Stoli & Lime

—Shawn Aveningo, Rescue

I remember my first taste
of pomegranates.
Mademoiselle Blanc
brought them to French Class one day.
She showed us how it was the seeds
that were actually the fruit
as she scooped them with a silver spoon.
It struck me as completely insane!

Summers I had spent
spitting out seeds of watermelon,
teasing my little sister if she swallowed,
she’d grow an entire watermelon patch
in her tummy.
The same tale held true
of pumpkin seeds at Halloween.
To this day my sister
won’t eat watermelon
or pumpkin pie.

Eating pomegranate
somehow made me feel
It wasn’t something we were accustomed to
in a suburban Missouri town.
Funny how things change.
Pomegranates suddenly so mainstream,
as soccer moms rush to Costco
to buy POM juice by the carton
getting their bulk of antioxidants
each day.

I prefer a more sophisticated approach.
I’ll take my daily dose of anti-radicals
from a sugar-rimmed
crystal martini glass,
my fingers caressing the stem,
while I sip the fruity concoction
of blueberry Stoli,
Pomegranate liqueur,
and twist of lime,
wishing I could remember more French
“voulez-vous couchez …..”
well, you know the rest.


This weekend in NorCal poetry:

(for a more complete listing, go to

•••Fri. (and every last Friday of the month), 8-10:30 PM: TheBlackOutPoetrySeries inside The Upper Level VIP Lounge, 26 Massie Ct., Sacramento (located inside of Fitness Systems Healthclub, by Cal State Skating Rink; exit Mack Road East to Stockton Blvd and then make a left on Massie, right past Motel 6) features Shemida Bernard-Lowe, Louie Ortega, Tamishia Clayborn, and Samona J; plus, Kevin Sandbloom from Los Angeles will be blessing the mic with his vocals. Plus open mic. Info: 916-208-POET or NOTE: EVENT PRICE CHANGE TO $10.00.

•••Friday (3/26), 7-9pm: Introduction to Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making with John Fox. Sierra Foothills Unitarian Universalists, 190 Finley St., Auburn. $25; open to all.

•••Sat. (3/27), 9am-4pm: Poetry, Community & The Flourishing Heart: workshop with John Fox at Sierra Foothills Unitarian Universalists, 190 Finley St., Auburn. $75, limited to 18 participants. Reg. with John Bowman at 916-751-9189 or

•••Sat. (3/27), 3:30-5pm: El Dorado County’s 2010 Season for Nonviolence will conclude this Saturday with a celebration of Peace through words, music and dance at Town Hall, 549 Main St., Placerville. Free and open to the public, the fourth annual “Peace Show” will feature the New Freedom Choir from Sacramento, the Sacramento Women’s Chorus, the Hill Country Band, Dance El Dorado, storyteller Martha De Aquino, poets from Red Fox Underground, and the Barefoot Singers Drumming Circle. There are also some art displays around town; Red Fox’s Irene Lipshin has some of her photography showing at Cozmic Café on Main Street. The Season for Nonviolence ( encompasses 64 days (Jan. 30-Apr. 4) commemorating the lives of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cesar Chavez. This is the fifth year in El Dorado County that organizations, churches and individuals have joined communities around the world to get out the message about the hope for and necessity of creating a more peaceful world through nonviolence.

•••Monday (3/29), 7:30pm: Sacramento Poetry Center presents A Benefit Reading for Autism with Rebecca Foust, Julie Bruck and Geoffrey Neill. R25 at 1719 25th St., Sacramento. Free, but donations requested; donations will support the UC Davis MIND Institute to support autism research. Rebecca Foust was born in Altoona, formerly one of the country’s great railroad towns, located in the Allegheny Mountains in western Pennsylvania and grew up in nearby Hollidaysburg, a tiny town surrounded by farmlands and forests, quarries and strip mines. After attending Smith College and Stanford Law School on scholarships, she practiced law in San Francisco for ten years, then worked as an advocate and grassroots political organizer for parents of kids with autism and other learning disorders. She continues to do volunteer work for causes related to autism and teach and write in northern California, where she lives with her husband and three teenagers. In January of 2010 she will receive her MFA from Warren Wilson College. Her recent poetry is published or forthcoming in small print journals including Atlanta Review, Margie, North American Review, The Hudson Review, and Women’s Review of Books, earning awards including two Pushcart nominations in 2008. Dark Card and Mom’s Canoe won the 2007 and 2008 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prizes, and her full-length book, All That Gorgeous, Pitiless Song won the 2008 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Book Award and will be released in 2010. Also to be released in 2010, by Tebot Bach Press, is God, Seed, a book of environmental poetry with art by Lorna Stevens.

Julie Bruck has taught at several Canadian universities, and was a resident faculty member at The Robert Frost Place. She has an MFA from Warren Wilson, fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and the Canada Council, and has published two collections, The Woman Downstairs (1993) and The End of Travel (1999). A third book is in the works. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and Ms. New poems are forthcoming in The New Yorker and The Malahat Review. A Montreal native, she has lived in San Francisco for eleven years.

Geoffrey Neill is one of the alternating hosts at Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café in Sacramento. He has lived in California his whole life (thirty-one complete years, one partial year), currently on 2nd Ave. in Sacramento. He has a daughter (Muriel, and the pinnacle of evolution) who is nearly two years old, and he recently started publishing chapbooks of local poets under the name, /little m press/.


—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

My dog and I rest in a meadow
where Sierra mountains backpack
ermine peaks, creamy clouds.

A breeze ripples her fur,
stirs wildflowers, pines,
the poems on my lap.

Shadows reshape boulders,
tree trunks, Shelley's white
paws, mane and tail tip.

Lines from Omar Khayyam,
Kahlil Gibran and John Muir
drift by and come back.

In such a pristine meadow
the camera at my side
clicks away without a touch.


—Claire J. Baker

Two white butterflies frisk about
the tops of sugar pines, dart in
and out of branches. A breeze blows
one to a near tree. Minutes later
the two rejoin, resume
their treetop quest.

They disappear, again return.
We relearn from a butterfly pair
to live our brief earth-flight
to the fullest, to wander where
it pleases us to wander,
to fly alone and fly together.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Standing tall
Shiny racks loaded with snacks
Bathed in light and a hum
You would surely like some
But the machine only takes quarters

Elegant wallet
Very large mingles with singles
You’ve earned respect for your stance
In the world of finance
But the machine only takes quarters

You look around for the sound
Of change being made
Your nerves are now frayed
Because the machine only takes quarters

Why not a dollar you holler
Small change you have not
There should be a bill slot
But the machine only takes quarters

The big cheese drops to his knees
Moved by desperate times
On the floor are just some loose dimes
But the machine only takes quarters

Losing temper
You abandon all care and yank up a chair
Smashing the glass
On the very first pass
Because the machine only takes quarters

A siren shrill the room does fill
So you flee empty handed
A vandal you are now branded
Because the machine only takes quarters

Your trusty car is not far
Now the exit gate is near
Just pay and you’re clear of here
But the machine only takes quarters

Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz


Today's LittleNip:

Early spring—picking vegetables;
a pheasant cries—
Old memories return.




Thursday, March 25, 2010

All in Good Taste

Photo by Jane Blue

—Jane Blue, Sacramento

I am eating an orange over the sink, juice
gushing down my chin and over my hands.
Suddenly my grandmother
is eating an orange over the sink, the old
porcelain sink of memory. My mother,
living in the same house but wishing
she was not, eats an orange over the sink,
the fiber collecting in her teeth.
Grown-up children arrive for Easter
and juggle oranges in the yard. Clouds blacken.
The oldest forgets her purse under the orange tree.
The little ones come and hide oranges
instead of eggs all over the house for Easter,
in closets and bookcases and behind
muslin curtains. The youngest whispers
a story about her father.
She puts him in the tissued cell
of a cardboard box, like a gourmet orange,
saving him until he comes back. Rain
slams down and the black pouch of the purse
is soaked through. How many things it holds:
coins, a book, a pocket knife, a phone;
they keep coming as though the purse is magic.
We whirl it in the dryer and nothing is ruined.


—Jane Blue

Carrots, with the golden rings of trees inside,
jump off the cutting board when you chop them.
Even grass is scythed or pulled out of the earth
like hair, and nuts, seemingly given so freely
by the trees, must be prised open like clams,
the meat (that is what we call it) splayed out
like a mammalian brain in the shell of its skull.
Soy beans are pressed through screens
until they are lifeless as smooth cubed stones,
then molded and colored to look like pork or beef
(the message: you can't do without it).
Sprouted beans thread out into filaments
like antennae. You might as well be eating insects.
The emptied sprouts open like mouths
reminiscent of carnivorous plants. If plants
eat meat, why shouldn't we? Sadly, there may
not be such a thing as nonviolence. The onions
with their souls exposed, how I weep with them.

(previously published in Caesura)


—Jane Blue

(on a photo by Kevin German, Photographer
The Sacramento Bee, February 8, 2006)

His specialty is portraiture. He has composed the pear
as he would a figure, off-center to the left
where light streams in as if from a window
in a Vermeer. The dowdy pear-shape and topknot
of a stem lean toward the dark emptiness at the right.
The pear tilts on a table of chocolate, melted
and hardening again into a ridge of rope. The freckled
torso of the fruit is pocked just above its broad hip
on the side untouched by chocolate, which stops
in art-deco waves vertically where the pear was dipped.
Perhaps the dent is of a finger gripping it. It's not
chocolate that elevates the fruit, amber and burnished,
it is the light. The pear seems at once disconsolate
and beautiful, hunkering down into the chocolate earth.
Did the photographer mean for it to resemble a nude?
Food is sexy; sex sells anything, even the idea
of fruit in chocolate. The effect is not, as you'd think,
of decadence, but the loneliness of objectified love.

(previously published in Ekphrasis)


—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

we will tear a rose
and devour it
for we are hungry
for certain tastes
and urgencies

we have been
away so long
sweet tongues
of the flowers

our lips
will be
pink with flavor
as we smile
through the half darkness
at each other

(previously appeared in Ark and
The Rose-eaters mini-chap by
Joyce Odam)


—Joyce Odam

I didn’t eat
and the hunger held, long past denial,
long into the reading hour.

Once I saw how one snake
swallowed another just as big,
arduous and slow. I was repelled.

Sleepless time was winding its great tongue
around my shadow which, like a bloating,
grew fatter and fatter.

Finally, to outwit my mouth, I watched my hand
pick up a knife—and down my belly—
make one swift slice, and shove bread in.

(previously appeared in Out of Sight)


—Joyce Odam

Take a rabbit from the wild.
Prepare it for the stew,
which means, of course,
to kill it first.

Discard the hairy skin.
Dissect. (I mean,
cut into serving pieces.)
Put in a pot of water.

Add this and that,
and stir and simmer,
stir and simmer,
till it’s tender.


—Joyce Odam

The daughter of the mad woman
is an arm-wrestler.
She gives away boxes of candy
to visitors who
come to test her strength
against their own.

She wins, of course.

She is the child of brilliance
and pain,
the one who knows how to be
the one who has inherited

(previously appeared in Small Press News)


—Joyce Odam

Eat one—
one square of chocolate
with an orange center. Sour-sweet.
The chocolate coating unconvincing.

Still, the rich scent lures the eyes
to taste. Forbidden, therefore wanted.
Indulge. It’s only one.
A matter of choice;

dollar-store candy—bargain
at a dollar. Impulse to test against,
and lose. All the will in the world
gives in to temptation.

You slice it into tiny bits
to prolong the tasting.
Just one, you comfort yourself.
Just one.


Today's LittleNip:

i refuse to die
until i've had my say

—Charles Mariano, Sacramento



Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Secret Ingredients

—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento

Slice off both ends of the pomegranate
so it will stand up steadily.
Cut into quarters.

Submerge fruit in a bowl of water
and break apart to free the seeds.
The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl
and the white membrane will float to the top.
Discard membrane.

Drain liquid and put the seeds
to one side. The seeds are covered
with sweet juice sacs called arils.
Both arils and seeds are edible.

Just sprinkle, toss or bake—
delicious on desserts, salads and cereals.


—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento

A Rebel has to walk a rocky road,
he’s anti everything, even gravity—
he tries to fly using cardboard wings.

Facing life, with a stubborn will,
he tosses all the rule-books in the air,
catching them again with a wink.

He thinks things are mocking his eyes—
clouds in the shape of lions and bears,
and tall trees nodding back to him.

A slight disorder in a woman’s dress,
suggests wantonness, which bewitches
him more than one being well-dressed.

He likes to leave things undone—he never
out-did a meal, or out-did the frolic of wine.
What might-have been—others can ponder.

When into his up-turned world another rebel
came, bringing new rebellious thoughts that
curbed his spirits, they both agreed to disagree.

Strange and terrible events were welcomed—
comforts were despised. Then to celebrate,
they shook hands and stopped for ice cream.


Screenwriting Class at 25th and R with acclaimed Writer/Director-Producer Walter Klenhard—A one-time only special offer from Room to Write and the Sacramento Poetry Center!

This is a special opportunity if you have ever thought of writing for the big screen. The free class will be taught by Walter Klenhard, a writer and director with over twenty produced movies. Walter has recently returned from Canada where he directed Gabrielle Anwar in the murder mystery, Lies Between Friends, from his original script. The film will be premiering in April of this year on the Hallmark Network.

Mr. Klenhard began writing in 1988 with the two-hour pilot for “B.L Stryker” starring Burt Reynolds. Since that beginning, he has written over twenty produced films. He was nominated for an Edgar Award for outstanding television mystery for The Last Hit. Walter has directed seven movies in locations ranging from Australia to Nova Scotia and Thailand. He began his career as an actor. As a teenager, he studied theatre in England and later continued at UCLA. In 1977, he turned professional and for the next decade appeared in numerous films and television shows. His credits include Midway, Tom Horn and, on TV, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” When not on location, he makes his home in California.

The class (limited to ten students) will meet April 8, 15, 22, May 6, 13, and 20 from 7-9pm, (except 7-10pm on May 20). SPC and Room to Write are located at 1719 25th Street, next to Alliance Francaise in the R25 Arts Complex at 25th and R in Sacramento. This screenwriting class offers something for all levels. Beginners will learn all the building blocks: format, structure, dialogue, and story. Experienced writers will have the benefit of professional feedback and have the opportunity to re-write their scripts with the guidance of an established writer/producer.

Classes are free, but we are requesting a $5 per class per student donation ($30 for the six-class series) to benefit the SPC/Matrix Arts building fund. To register, contact Walter at


The latest issue of Ekphrasis is out, featuring many fine poets from all over the country, including our Joyce Odam. Pick up a copy from Laverne or Carol Frith, or go to

Our Seed of the Week is Food, and the troops have responded in fine fettle! Apparently food is a universal subject. Send your food poems to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs. Here are three rather unsettling ones from Taylor Graham, who will be reading along with the other Red Fox Underground poets this Saturday in Placerville—see our Bulletin Board for details. You can also catch TG at tonight's Upstairs Poetry reading from 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

If Huntley & Palmer's biscuits were more widely and evenly dispensed among the neediest of the working-classes, [there might be] less crime and fewer tenants of [Reading] and other gaols.
—Elihu Burritt, A Walk from London to Land’s End (1865)

Biscuits indeed! You’ve never seen such enginery
for dealing with dough. This is the stuff of industrial
revolution: machines of iron and steam; ovens rotating
like revolving shutters; rollers regulated by a screw,
with force and action that could work sheet-metal.
Rotary stamper. A gun (they say the barrel’s loaded
with sweet paste), ramrod pressed to the operator’s
chest, sharpened knife in his other hand to slice
the jet erupting from the muzzle. And this mortar
that could lay siege to a town; breech-loading,
charge propelled by a steam piston.

Loaves and biscuits: do they offer you a sample?
Is it sweet enough to subdue the roughest hunger,
this cake forged in the arsenal of peace?


—Taylor Graham

By some chemical transformation,
it became the taste of sorrow.
As if someone waved a magic wand
across my dust-mask
smeared with mentholatum
to sweeten the stench of death.
Five days after
earthquake, no water.
A mother crooning on the street.


—Taylor Graham

You asked for cherry-pie cake.
There were ants in the sugar bowl.
I picked them out till I couldn’t
find any more. Seventeen
I squished between thumb and finger.
I thought briefly about their
small lives, their sweet hungers.
I may have missed some.
You said the cherry-pie cake
tasted extra-special good
this time.


Today's LittleNip:


If you do not shake the bottle,
None'll come, and then a lot'll.



Tool Shed
Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove